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What is dark tourism?

Dark tourism is associated with death. No matter how strong the agony may have been, the death site has its own attraction on a rather negative tune but is still a major tourist puller in its own specialright. Dark tourist aka death tourism is also called Grief tourism to recall the scale of sufferings faced by the victim(s) before they slipped into the other world.

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Tourists pour in wailing over the tragedy that had been immense and put the world in mute shock. It is seen as an opportunity to shed tears and express sorrow for the departed souls. It is a kind of mass homage paid in the garb of tourism that hits the emotional side of the tourists quite deeply.

The mass death may have been occurred as a result of mass genocide like war. Political, social and economic reasons may have played their bit. It may be the result of an enormous catastrophe or a natural disaster like a quake, a volcanic eruption, a flood or tsunami or a lethal blow of cyclonic winds. It is the historical importance connected with the mass graveyard is what pulls the tourists and not merely the fact that the people have died. The basic reason is the unpredictable human mind, which may react strangely to a given environment. Like the most unwanted phenomena as gruesome as death could inspire tourism!

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Yet there have been a school of thoughts propounded by experts that dark tourism is principally an act of exploitation. The sentiment of the tourist is shamelessly used as the most vulnerable touch point. The sites of mass demise have been preserved, epitomized, upgraded and finally marketed for generation of money, abusing the most poignant part of the tourist’s psyche. However, whether dark tourism plays upon unethical platform is a matter of debate nonetheless the tourist’s response to this kind of tourism is huge.

There are classic examples of tragedy struck places where entire settlements were wiped out under gun fire, people groaning in pain and bloodshed lost lives in large scale. The trail of destruction is pronounced and horrible inflicting a deep scar in the mind. Infamous places like battle grounds and citadels stand bringing back flashes of carnage that had been enacted in the past. The Auschwitz concentration camp where the Polish, Jews and Europeans of non Germanic lineage were put to inhuman torture by the Nazi tormenters was as ghastly as the Nanjing massacre memorial hall in China. The level of butchery that went way back in time pulls the tourists who gather around these horrid sites in order to express their reverence for the dead. The Hiroshima peace memorial, the Ground Zero in New York and Culloden in Scotland are as vile as they are woeful. Similar sites of disaster stirring tourism are Tuol Sleng genocide museum in Cambodia and Poineri and Bran castles in Rumania.

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Travel to sites that generate grief has received a considerable media attention and had been a subject of scholarly studies. The focus is put on the tourist’s awareness and response to the shocking catastrophe that had taken so many human lives leaving the site under an appalling shadow of doom. Dark tourism embraces the darker side of life permeating through social, economical, political, geographical and anthropological realms. It is primarily a clash of interests that has instigated one section of the society to expunge the other entirely and turn the bloodied grounds as a centre of tourist appeal.

Dark tourism has become a subject of serious study. Unlike other niche tourism which brings forth fun, bliss, gratification or high adventure, Dark tourism works in quite the reverse direction. It breeds hatred for the heinous act, and grief and compassion for those fallen a victim. It is a mix of negative sentiments and strangely enough the tourists are still drawn towards these destinations charged with horror and anguish. Perhaps the enormity of the atrocities committed is too powerful to ignore and too macabre to digest!

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