The Dark Tourist Spectrum: A darker shade of tourism?

The Dark Tourist Spectrum: A darker shade of tourism?


When life’s a beach you look for
something a little different on holiday if the fly’n’flop doesn’t do it, you
might be in the market for something a shade darker dark tourism is defined as
visiting attractions whose main draw is their association with either real or
symbolic death and suffering when you put it like that you can’t help but wonder: who’s visiting these places? and who’s running them? but chances are you’ve already
visited one, just as a curiosity on a holiday to Rotorua you might have been
to the Buried village of Tarawera New Zealand’s answer to Pompeii or in New York Central Park you might have visited the John Lennon memorial history is just one
dark thing happening after another and people are fascinated by it there’s something that draws people to sites of tragedy to see where it all happened dark tourism is nothing new either it’s a long and disturbing tradition from
pilgrimages to the dark relics of disembodied saints, gladiatorial games,
public executions people have always used their free time to do some really
rather strange things there were traces of something darker even at the beginning of what we now recognise as tourism in the 1800s the buried city of
Pompeii near Naples became a must-see for this new breed of tourists the catacombs of the Paris ossuary were opened to paying visitors this inspired a church in Sedlec
to commission an artist Frantisek Rindt to make something more attractive
at all the old bones they’d like about the place you know liven it up up for
visitors it’s still one of the top attractions in modern-day Czech Republic as a busy Trip Advisor page will attest full of questions from curious tourists
such as: “can you get married in the church bride emoji bride emoji” no, no you can’t clearly some of the more gruesome tourist relics are fairly innocuous some dark tourism sites almost become parodies of themselves heading further
east to Romania the Transylvanian castle Brad now actively advertises itself this
‘Castle Dracula’ selling fanged mugs and black wings it has more to do with Hollywood vampires than any real Transylvanian count who ever lived Dark tourism is something that’s easy to market but harder to reckon with just as
no two hotels are made equal, do we need a ‘darkness spectrum’ like a TripAdvisor rating for tragedy To help make sense of this tourism conundrum dr. Phillip Stone came up with
a six-step scale he refers to as a dark tourism ‘spectrum’ ranging from lightest hint of tragedy to soul-blackening darkest assigning a shade or measurement
to the value of an attraction’s darkness looking at the purpose of an attraction, we must fisrt ask ourselves is it is it factual or something more dubious? how far away is it from the site it represents? is it serving to educate its
visitors or just titillate? is it some distant historic event or a more recent tragedy? one might be able to say with confidence a memorial to Holocaust
survivors though covering the same dark topic is a shade or two lighter than
actually visiting the site of the Auschwitz Birkenau death camp likewise
to visit Von Hagens’s Body Worlds though you’re face to face with cadavers the
commercial incentive and hype surrounding the exhibition lightens what
would be a dark experience but the point of the scale is not to steer travelers towards what better suits their sensibilities or to test tolerance instead it’s a way for dark sites to weigh up and keep a bearing on their
moral compass at the Ground Zero memorial for example it’s a chance for curators to think of the impact of the event that is theirs to keep fresh what can they do as the event slips further back into living memory?

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