Dark tourism

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					                        Dark Tourism

Sergei and Ella

Certificate in International Hotel and Tourism Operations

HTMi Switzerland
The notion of tourism in general is rather broad. There are numerous types of

tourism that are aimed on fulfilment of different customers’ needs. Tourism and

travelling have become not only a means of satisfaction of spiritual wants, but

also most people’s lifestyle (Amabile 2005). For ages people from all over the

world were interested in destinations, connected with death and suffering of

the olds. These places have been attracting people from everywhere long since

by the tragic history or shadowy past. This phenomenon is very hard to explain.

Probably, it is connected with humans being extremely curious, while talking

about tragedies, catastrophes, sufferings and death. Nevertheless, tours

devoted to visits of the most tragically places on the planet are becoming more

and more popular among tourists from all over the world. For that reason, the

notion of dark tourism is becoming more popular among demanding

customers. Dark tourism is the „act of travelling and visiting sites, attractions

and exhibitions which have real or recreated death, suffering or the seemingly

macabre as a main theme” (Stone 2005). Among these tours are such like, a

family picnic on French battlefields, exciting class outings in famous London

dungeons, visiting the Nazi death camp in „Auschwitz”, observing of the

catastrophic consequences of the destructive hurricane „Katrina” or a tour

around the notorious AES in Chernobyl with a visit to the ghost-town Pripyat’.

The notion „Dark tourism” has become so broad, that a lot of sub-classifications

have sprouted such as:

   Holocaust tourism

   Cemetery tourism
   Prison tourism

   Battlefield tourism

   Disaster tourism

   Slavery-heritage tourism

   Ghost tourism

   Drug tourism

Each of these types of tourism has huge popularity among different types of

customers and has its own target audience. We will examine the most popular

types of dark tourism deeper and consider examples of the destinations for

each of the types of dark tourism.

Holocaust tourism

An example of this was the systematic prosecution and destruction of million

Nazism victims (one third of the Jewish people and other minorities), which

were discriminated and brutally killed by German Nazi and collaborationists.

Sixty years on from the defeat of the Nazis, some of the infamous sites of their

crimes, those they could not destroy to hide the evidence, have turned out to be

important tourist attractions. Moreover, visitor numbers to the numerous

Holocaust museums in Europe and worldwide are soaring (Seedman 2006).

One of the most notorious and popular destinations among tourists is

undoubtedly Aushvitz-Birkenau museum in Osvenzim. It includes three main

concentration camps: Aushvitz 1, Aushvitz 2 and Aushvitz 3. This museum is

devoted to brutal murders in the camp during World War II.
The camp was transformed to a museum in 1947, but in 1979 it was included to

the list of UNESCO world heritage sites. Every year about a million of tourists

visit this museum to feel all the pain that prisoners felt 60 years ago.

Cemetery tourism

This is the form of dark tourism, when tourists tend to visit cemeteries for

different purposes. For example, some people want to see a place, where

famous persons were buried, and other people would like to see the

architectural style of granite headstones, crypts on particular cemetery

(Artifica 2003). Some people are interested in history of cemetery or, probably,

have relatives, buried in this place. This kind of tourism is very strange and a

sombre and macabre attraction. Many people cannot stay in such a place like

cemetery more that 15 minutes, but for others all these granite headstones,

monuments and crypts are not more than part of sightseeing itinerary (ibid).

A lot of countries all over the world have famous cemeteries, which attract

attention of tourists, but one of the most popular and the most visited cemetery

is undoubtedly Père Lachaise cemetery in Paris. It attracts hundreds of

thousands visitors every year. This is the burial place for such notable persons

as Edit Piaf, Honore De Balzac, Joseph Louis Gay-Lussac, Maria Callas,

Modigliani, Jim Morrison and others. In the last five years, the popularity of

cemetery tourism has been growing very fast. Government and tour operators

found out that cemeteries are a source of profit, so they try to promote it to

attract a larger foreign audience. Different cities (for example Riga, Latvia) try

to put in order their old city cemeteries, up to open it for the tourists.
Prison tourism

Prison tourism is type of the dark tourism, where tourists tend to visit prisons

as places for attraction. This type of dark tourism is not so profitable when

compared with other dark tourism subspecies, but still is interesting for people,

who want to see life from another perspective. The native land of prison

tourism is Thailand. The prison Bang Kvang is opened for guests since 90’s. If

you want to be “imprisoned” for several hours, you need to choose a cellmate

from the real prisoners (Zinn 2008). But in this prison tourist can’t stay in cell

more than several hours. For people, who don’t want to be imprisoned there

are prisons-museums, like world famous Alcatraz in San Francisco. This is one

of the most popular and well-known prisons in the World.

Battlefield tourism

A large amount of visitors are attracted by places where big or small battles or

military operations took place. Pearl Harbour, Normandy, Hiroshima are

examples of these almost destroyed by the War and now very well known and

popular as a tourism destination. After World War II a lot of soldiers who had

been fighting in Asian region or in Europe wanted to come back to their battle

areas because of nostalgic feelings or for saying good-bye to their comrades,

who died during the battle. These soldiers also wanted to go with their families,

to show him all horror of places. Visiting such destinations, tourists who have

never felt experience of the war have opportunity to do it, because looking at

the ruins of the buildings and pieces of military machines or even bones of lost

soldiers, they can feel reality of war.
Disaster tourism

The aim of this type of tourism is to visit destinations, which were destroyed by

natural cataclysms, like tsunami or hurricane, or disasters because of human’s

activities, like explosions on the factories or terrorist attacks. Of course mass

media informs about latest catastrophes in all variations, but people who want

to feel all the pain and suffering of locals and estimate the scale of tragedy, go

directly to this place. Tourism organisations use this tourists` desire to visit

destroyed cities, flooded zones, and organize tours to the most famous places,

where disasters took place. One of the latest and most famous tours is the

excursion to Ground Zero in New York. This is the place, where World Trade

Centre buildings were located before terrorist attack in 9/11. There are also

bus tours to the places that have been destroyed by powerful hurricane

“Katrina”. In Europe the most famous place is one where nuclear catastrophe

took place is Chernobyl (Ukraine). During last three years the amount of

tourists to Chernobyl is increasing day by day. There are so many people who

want to visit this macabre place that organisations, which render services, have

had to refuse some tourist groups.


Dark tourism is a very popular and unusual type of tourism. It consists of

different sub-categories, like battlefield tourism, ghost tourism, disaster

tourism and many others. It based on destinations, connected with death and

suffering of people. Such destinations like Perl Harbour monument in Hawaii,

Phuket destroyed by tsunami, famous London dungeon always attract attention

of million tourists by tragic history and an unusual atmosphere, which can be
felt only in the place where something terrible and connected with death


Many tourists visit those destinations in order to get such feelings, that can’t be

felt in any other tourism destinations. At the present time a lot of tour agencies

from all over the world are offering a great variety of different dark tours. The

main disadvantage of dark tourism is that, people very often forget about the

ethical elements of this tourism. It is a realistic tragedy and pain for those who

have been affected by it and just mere caprice for others.


It is worth remembering that dark tourism, although a very popular and ever

increasing branch of tourism, still remains a realm of human suffering and

distraught. The onus may lie on the tour operators and retailers to keep this

focus as a priority and prevent cultural erosion through voluminous numbers

of tourists. An ethical balancing act does occur and it is relevant to all parties

and stakeholders to promote the destinations for what they represented in


Amabile,    K.    2005.      (Online)   Dark    tourism.    Available    from        (Accessed      on

December 4 2009)

Artifica. 2003 (Online) Cemetery tourism. Available from http://www.pere- (Accessed on December 7 2009)

Federman, A. 2006. Remembering Chernobyl (Online) Available from             (Accessed      on

December 10 2009)

Stone, A.R. 2006 (Online) “The darker side of travel”. Battlefield tourism.

Available from (Accessed on December 18


Zinn, L. 2008. (Online) Prison Wrap-Up: Alcatraz, Eastern State Lure Thousands

Behind                    Bars.                Available                 from

(Accessed on December 12 2009)

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