Dark Tourism is defined as tourism that involves travelling to places historically associated with death and tragedy. Without knowing it, most of us have become dark tourists or have showed an interest in viewing places of death and sorrow.
Though you may be wondering why there is such a new fascination with the macabre and morbid, the concept of dark tourism isn’t a new phenomenon at all. Human fascination with death was a prominent part of the Middle Ages and even as far back as the Roman Empire, when the voyeuristic pleasure of death as entertainment and open forms of execution were the norm.
Here are some examples of contemporary dark tourism destinations throughout the world:
Concentration Camp Auschwitz, Poland
9/11 Memorial, USA
Hiroshima Peace Memorial, Japan
Alcatraz Federal Penitentiary, USA
So, why are we so fascinated by these places of tragedy? Why do we have an urge to visit sites that have such a sombre historical past?
Curiosity- with a strong human desire for the unknown and the unusual, contemporary visits to places such as Auschwitz are motivated simply out of inquisitiveness
Novelty seeking- an intrinsic need for thrill, risk and adventure which dark tourism generates
Remembrance- dark tourism allows us to link ourselves to the past and provides us with the affirmation and recognition of events that have happened
Education- there is always a need to understand why a devastating event occurred, a lot of dark tourism attractions have educational aims in order to help people learn from the past
Death- death has come to occupy a central place in society consciousness and destinations that are associated with death hold a fascination to them
James Willcox, the founder of Untamed Borders, which takes tourists to the world’s most inaccessible and dark places, said: “The vast majority of people that travel with us, travel because they want to experience what it is really like. A country like Afghanistan – people have read about it in the news – it’s a place they feel they know in some ways but on the other hand it’s completely alien to them.”
Although people don’t necessarily take delight in visiting dark places, it gives a surreal feeling and moreover, a deeper understanding of the world by taking a journey through its dark past.
However, for heritage sites with a history of death or tragedy, dark tourism poses its own challenges in navigating between commercial exploitation and respectful preservation. There will be a constant underlying question as to whether dark tourism is respecting the dead or exploiting their memories