Welcome to the Darker Side of Travel
Darker Destinations is a website dedicated to the trending topic of dark tourism, which has been associated with the travel to sites of and/or associated with death, destruction and the macabre. Through our blog, we shall highlight some of the sites that have been categorized under this term and bring you their history and some relevant stories, as well as discussing the good and bad aspects of tourism surrounding these sites.
Although we like the term dark tourism, due to the arousal and mystery it raises – we don’t like what it’s being associated with, indeed the term remain vague and too many sites can be labelled as dark. Even other types of tourism such as disaster tourism and war-zone tourism are categorized side-by-side with dark tourism; when frankly, they have nothing to do with each other. We don’t condone touring post-disaster sites or active war zones, for obvious reasons, but we do agree in the education and commemoration that occurs at sites that, admittedly, are quite dark.
This website and blog are ran by one individual and the mission is to shed light on the topic and discuss why these sites are called dark, not to create a stigma of darkness around these sites. Indeed, our name may be darker, but we only did that to get your attention – and it must have worked, so that’s what we’re here to discuss.
What is ‘dark tourism’?
The media are churning out the term ‘dark tourism’ by the bucket load; The Ominous Rise of Dark Tourism (Daily Mail), Exploring the lure of Edinburgh’s dark tourism (BBC News), The Rise of Dark Tourism (The Atlantic), Dark tourism: why are we attracted to tragedy and death? (The Telegraph). Can dark tourism ever be a good thing? (The New Internationalist).
But what does it all mean? Dark Tourism is the act of travelling to sites of and/or associated with death and destruction, the term was coined by Lennon & Foley in 1996, but it has had many names; ‘Negative Sightseeing’ (MacCannell, 1989) ‘Thanatourism’ (Seaton, 1996), ‘Fright Tourism’ (Bristow & Newman, 2004) ‘Black Spots’ (Rojek, 1993), ‘Morbid Tourism’ (Blom, 2000) or even described as ‘Milking the Macabre’ (Dann, 1994).
One of the most famous, or most commonly named example of ‘dark tourism’ is Auschwitz-Birkenau (Wikipedia), this former WW2 Nazi concentration camp received a record 1.43m visitors in 2014 (The Huffington Post). Another well-referenced example is the Chernobyl Nuclear Exclusion Zone (Wikipedia), as well as The Killing Fields (Wikipedia) in Cambodia which are also regularly referred to as an example of dark tourism. And let us not forget “The World’s Largest Grave’ that is buried beneath the French capital; Catacombes de Paris (Wikipedia).
Is it weird to think of these places as tourist hot spots? Sure it’s not the typical sandcastles and sangrias, but it is interesting, it is educational, it’s emotional, and it’s different. There’s a little fascination inside all of us as humans, it comes and goes throughout life, as we first see death as a child whether losing friends and family, and then proceeding to learn of the horrendous history of mankind, death is all around us; but we try to ignore it today. Hidden behind the medical curtain, death has truly been lost in Western culture, which is perhaps why ‘dark tourism’ is starting to become more popular; people want to see death, not quite literally, but they want to feel that connection; that sense of being fragile, that sense of what is real to them; whether’s that’s by visiting a grandparent’s grave for commemoration or to visit Auschwitz-Birkenau and put some thought to the horrors of World War 2.
Of course, there is nothing at all new about ‘dark tourism’, let us only look back to the Gladiator games of Ancient Rome, thousands would gather to watch the fighting and bloodshed. Or more recently; Thomas Cook, the man who founded the friendly fun and sun travel agent you know from your high street; organised some of his first trips to see the hangings in Cornwall (The Atlantic). Not sure you’ll find that if you ask now! But what about present day? Well it’s everywhere, just in different forms! The London Dungeon’s, an entertaining ‘family’ fun day out; that represents and recreates the torture devices used to interrogate and kill enemies of the crown; delightful stuff!
Dark tourism has also been associated with other similar titles such as ‘Disaster Tourism‘ and ‘War Tourism‘, which involve the travel to post-disaster sites and active war zones. Through our regular updates, we hope to create a separation of classifying these very different types of tourism together – while we are passionate about ‘dark tourism’; we do not condone or promote the tourism to war zones or disaster sites, due to the negative effects such as; getting in the way of real aid, putting yourself in to an unnecessarily dangerous situation, as well as the obvious resilience to tourism at these sites.
This website will dedicate itself to bring you information and regular updates about everything and anything ‘dark tourism’. There’s no way that we could have fitted in all the information concerning this fascinating phenomenon, so join us for regular updates through either our Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Instagram or LinkedIn while we explore the history and tourism surrounding these sites labelled ‘dark’. While the point is indeed to raise awareness and promote these sites, the focus is asking why these sites are labelled dark rather than adding a dark stigma to these locations.
Thank you for reading and please bear with me whilst I add more information on this fascinating subject – James.
Blom, T. (2000). “Morbid tourism: A postmodern market niche with an example from Althorp.” In Norwegian Journal of Geography: 54. pp. 29–36.
Bristow, R. S. and Newman, M. (2004) “Myths vs fact: an exploration of fright tourism.” In Bricker, K. (Ed.) Proceedings of the 2004 Northeastern Recreation Research Symposium. US Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Northeastern Research Station, PA. pp. 215-221.
Dann, G. (1994). “Tourism: the nostalgia industry of the future.” In W.Theobald (ed) Global Tourism: The Next Decade. Oxford: Butterworth-Heinemann. pp. 55-67.
Foley, Malcolm; J. John Lennon (1996). “JFK and dark tourism: A fascination with assassination.” In International Journal of Heritage Studies; Vol 2 (4): pp. 198–211.
MacCannell, D. (1989) “The Tourist: A New Theory of the Leisure Class.” 2nd edn. University of California Press. Berkeley. Seaton, A. (1996) “Guided by the dark: from thanatopsis to thanatourism” In International Journal of Heritage Studies: 2(4). pp. 234-244.
Rojek, C. (1993). “Ways of escape.” Basingstoke: Macmillan