The history of Dark tourism is long and interesting. It was a pronounced phenomenon during the middle ages. It assumed a huge proportion in the Romantic period at the later stage of eighteenth century. Mass cemeteries, gruesome dungeons and public punishment gallows, pillories and decapitation grounds have lured throngs of visitors since ages bygone.
A complete guide to Dark Tourism by Dr Prem – History, Importance, Planning, Activities, and Destinations
The bloodstained battlefield of water loo drew inquisitive tourists’ attention way back in 1816 and after. It is his primitive instinct that has motivated man to get turned on by the macabre. The grisly scenes left behind by bloodshed, disaster and death perhaps gives him that kick of excitement which is met by visiting these chilling sites. In Pompeii, Italy the intensive damage inflicted by the fuming Mt. Vesuvius upon mankind and property were great attractions of Dark tourism during the Romantic era and is still a big tourist draw.
History of dark tourism:
In the broader sense, dark tourism can be considered as the oldest form of tourism and also a recent development. Earlier pilgrimages that constituted the only form of travel included various sites of death, burial grounds or assassination sites. People used to travel to pay respect to the departed souls and recollect the memories of long past.
The term “dark tourism” didn’t evolve as a distinct niche. It has been a recent form of tourism evolving in the early or mid-nineties where people took special interests in visiting some of the world’s disaster sites like the Auschwitz Concentration camp in Poland, Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park in Japan and Chernobyl in Ukraine. The term “dark tourism” came into existence in 1996 coined by Lennon and Foley, the faculty members of the Department of Hospitality, Tourism & Leisure Management at Glasgow Caledonian University.
What constitutes Dark Tourism?
Massacres and bloodshed perhaps stirs the animal instinct of human beings. Let us have a glance at few of the yesteryear events, practices and rituals that has contributed to the history of dark tourism.
Is dark tourism for you?
Dark tourism, despite its unconventional character quite out of tune with other tourism niches does have an appeal which the tourists find hard to resist. The historical significance is educative and is certainly thought provoking as is hurting. Much of remains and traces of the disaster that you see around feeds your intellectual appetite.
Is your mind ready to get exposed to past brutality?
It is agreed that all those disturbing spectacle in a dark tourism site you are exposed to doesn’t qualify to be a grand feast to your eyes, Essential components of dark tourismbut you cannot ignore the awesome presence of chill and death either. It compels you to forage into the past, and you construct the pieces together and get a clear picture of blood and gore that had remained in history as evidences of greed, hatred, political motives and deception or a spell of natural misfortune where human beings are puny wretched creatures swept off by nature’s wrath.
The tourist feels consolation in paying homage to the tragedy struck victims, and the experience turns rich laden with an access to the sheer size of the damage done spelling ruin and revulsion in the sites of visit and its vicinity. This sort of tours have an academic worth arousing interest around the complex areas of human nature, his reaction to social, economic and political transformations and its ultimate culmination into Armageddon or the end of the world!
Personal and academic quest
Apart from meeting personal interests and academic quests by making trips to destinations marked for dark tourism, you are actually helping generate employment connected with the tourism industry. The money you pay gets into the development cycle and gets utilized in up gradation of infrastructure. The trip encourages and pumps money into the local business cycle and helps preservation of dark tourism sites and museums displaying artifacts and bloodcurdling souvenirs.
For example, the terrifying weapons used by Nazis of Germany or Pol Pot of Khmer Rouge regime of Cambodia in order to torture and exterminate innocent targets are interesting tools worth a glimpse. The Cambodian and Hiroshima Nagasaki genocides are black legends in their truest sense. They are the most embarrassing chapters of monstrous acts in human history but nevertheless trigger enough tourist interest in their own special way.
Exploration of a different kind
You could as well organize a trip to these notorious sites and quench your thirst for exploring the kicks of Dark tourism. It is through Dark tourism you get to establish a connection with death. In normal circumstances, people may be dying in small and large numbers. There is a mourning and cremation ritual and that’s all. The memory of the dead gradually fades from the mind. But in Dark tourism, the relics of the deceased and all that related to the widespread carnage is meticulously preserved fascinating the viewer.
The gladiatorial combats unto death in the ancient Roman era send waves of thrill among the spectators. On a parallel psychological explanation, death sites fascinate the tourists largely, and thanatopic destinations associated with death and disasters are under focus of study. The message is clear to the tourists that dark tourism sites aren’t that bad, and they do inspire attraction and fondness.
Essential components of dark tourism
Dark tourism is founded upon a platform not quite common with its counterpart tourism niches. Apparently the components sound negative blocking any inflow of tourists and exactly here lies the paradox. Words and elements like carnage, war, death, torture, mass graveyard and catastrophe should have been quite disgusting for the visiting tourists extinguishing their interest, but to the contrary these apparently repelling features turn out appealing drawing crowd from home and abroad and certainly are a few components that make Dark tourism successful.
Among the chief components that make up Dark tourism, the historical and academic significance must exist. The dates are important as is the horror element connected to the gruesome deaths. The most important element perhaps is the weird psychological construction of the human mind. It is not always all the good elements around us should appeal us. Though it depends upon the man concerned, the shocks delivered by death and disaster, genocide and gore fest quite often gives him the necessary pleasure kicks to bring upon a change that he looks for in every phase of our lives. Human mind is fluid; one moment it loves to be amid religious gathering inside a temple and the next moment given the right combination of timing and environment one relishes the savage spectacle of a cape buffalo being pulled down and torn to pieces by a pride of hungry lions.
Misfortunes and chronologically worth mentioning butchery have been hugely responded by the tourists. War, death and documentations on bloodied political conflicts and the related artifacts comprise a big source of tourist enticement globally. The revulsion, the deterring episodes and the gross offensive that has led to a socio political stigma putting a blemish on the destination in fact had been the basic module supporting Dark tourism. The visitor response and the motives that prod them on to visit places where death, destruction and genocides have occurred are essential components of dark tourism. An inclination towards history and the level of political awareness and edification of the consumer tourists are important components as well.
Grisly spectacles, death sentences delivered to criminals serving imprisonment in the most horrible way, archeological digs revealing mass slaughter could well be essential components of Dark tourism. Trips to destinations motivated by spectacles of violent death manifested by relics and other objects of lethal character are furthermore elements of Dark tourism.
The role of literature and media backed by illustrations and factual revelations of the gory past could be key components. These sources generate awareness and interest among tourists who realize that such horrid destinations do exist and stand till today as a testimony to catastrophic incidents occurred way back in the past extinguishing life and devastating property on a massive scale. The attitude and encouragement shown by the government towards Dark tourism together with support from the tourism department, the travel agents, local population and business set ups are important factors.
Infrastructural supports like proper accommodation, law and order, local administration and transportation network are also indispensable components on which the sustenance of Dark tourism rests.
Key Drivers of Dark Tourism
It is the most fascinating and the most unexplainable character of his mind that would drive man towards destinations noted for mass murder, suffering, tragedy and full blown disaster. Man’s fascination for death delivered in the most ghastly manner has been evident from historical enactment of violence and bloodshed starting from the medieval times down to the modern era.
The gladiatorial combats and fights between man and beast within the limits of the amphitheatres thrilled the nobility and commoners pumping enough adrenaline and excitement. The fall of the valiant warrior was responded with waves of applauses.
The victor was cheered on, and the memory of the vanquished faded in oblivion. These blood spattered spectacles were sure key drivers that gathered charged crowd around the gruesome sites.
More the degree of violence more is the intensity of excitement. Both the internal and external factors found compatibility and the disasters assumed huge proportion in fondness. The external stimulus refers to the bloody incidents of death and disaster and the relics available to recall the havoc. The internal receptor is all that is to do about the darker side of human mind turn on by blood and gore.
Of course, the external tourist doesn’t want to see himself being a party to the debacle. He loves to see others who have lost lives in the most violent way putting forward a conscience washing argument that his visit to the dark tourism site doesn’t cause any further harm to the dead.
The horrors of Auschwitz concentration camp where thousands of Jews were persecuted in subhuman conditions, the annihilation in Vietnam, the Chernobyl nuclear mishap in Ukraine, the Hiroshima Nagasaki bombing in Japan, hurricane Katrina in New Orleans, tragedy of ground zero, the Tsunami calamity in South East Asia are strong temptations, and the tourists are drawn in flocks driven by the sheer extent of flabbergasting shock these sites have on offer. They are for certain powerful drivers of dark tourism.
The quality of preservation of tragic struck sites with adequate supporting information is a key driver too. The knowledge of the guide who would take the tourist around the disaster site is important. The knowledge should be authentic and thoroughly backed with facts and data. Mere anecdotes and sketchy account will not serve the purpose, but the narration should be lively and delivery interesting. The guide should have a meticulous awareness of every finer details of the place where the tragedy had struck putting the victims into abysmal ache. Stains of blood and dents and nail marks on the walls of victims indicating their last minute struggle for survival would certain add a dash of curiosity among the visiting tourists.
Particularly in Nazi gas chambers, the victims must have thrashed about flailing arms and legs before horrible death overpowered them. In the process, the victims must have left enough evidence in their death wail for the tourist to explore and imagine the intensity of horror and sufferings the victims faced before their permanent departure from this world. In fact, how well these vestiges have been preserved by the department of tourism would definitely qualify being powerful drivers of dark tourism. Whatever product the tourist is being offered should be presented in an interesting way as to appeal the tourists so that they could imagine the grossness of the crime committed and the resulting suffering of humanity.
The delivery of the speech of the guide touching minute details of gore and shock are important drivers. The narration should not be bland but should appeal the tourists striking a chord deep inside as the tourist gets confronted with a slow motion nightmare from the past. This aspect would certainly be a strong driver making Dark tourism an interesting venture!
Gladiatorial combats in Roman amphitheaters:
The ancient bloody spectacles enacted in the Roman amphitheatres for gladiatorial combats of fight till death were tempting enough. Huge mass of frenzied crowd watched with intense pleasure drawing in delight at the gory sights. Clash of steel rung in the air, and valiant fighters fought single handedly with hungry lions and charging bulls until they kissed the dust.
Public hangings and crucifixion brought forth thrill and joy! The emperors flanked by the choicest womenfolk took pleasure from the scenes of shattering bones and ripping off guts while enjoying the most exhilarating sips of ale. Aren’t these enough clues to establish the fact that Thanatourism (alternate term for Dark Tourism) has a confirmed historical root?
Assassination site of John Kennedy:
A famous site of celebrity assassinations like in Dallas where John F Kennedy was shot qualifies to be another historical evidence of man’s obsession with Dark tourism destinations.
Ritual of the Central American Mayan Cult:
A burning example of Dark tourism was what happened in the Mayan cult in Central American in the Meso American era back in 250 -900AD. Human sacrifice in its most terrifying form entertained the spectators and devout religious followers.
Decapitation and removal of the throbbing heart of the victim was the most common method that was met with loud applause from the cheering crowd. This macabre ritual was usually performed by a team of priests at the top of a pyramid which was in fact a sacrificial temple. Offering was directed to Sun God and other deities to bring in a good harvest or conquest over enemy. The sacrifices had a religious motive and were great crowd pullers.
After the job done, the headless torso was thrown down the steps and collected at the base of the pyramid by the animated spectators set on a strange mix of frenzy, excitement and a passionate religious compulsion. What can be more hideous than the Mayan crowd’s response to a still more awful method of extinguishing human life on a massive scale? This was the historical model of Dark tourism gruesome and tragic.
Weird religious belief of Mexican Aztecs:
However, the central Mexican Aztecs beat the Mayans in cruelty and enormity of carnage. Religious beliefs led to massive human sacrifices, which was enjoyed by people from near and far and from all walks of life. More important the social standing of the victim more boisterous was the spectator reaction!
Cult of human sacrifice of Inca Civilization:
Down south in the continent of South America, the primitive Inca civilization thrived along the slopes of Chilean and Peruvian Andes. The cult of human sacrifice was rampant and practiced in public to appease the Sun god and other gods and goddesses.
People gathered around the sacrificial altars with a sacred zeal burning in their eyes. However, post Spanish invasion the rituals faded into oblivion. The citations of cultural inclination in the entire Americas and Europe clearly indicate that Dark tourism and the fun drawn from watching human sufferings were very much alive in the past. Slaves were made to move across countries amid inhuman hardships, death and agony towards an unknown destiny. They did not dare stop in their journey risking the rain of whipping that came down from their ruthless masters. The men and women were made bonded labors to toil and get involved in laborious construction work or were made to work in the field.
The strong and the valiant were destined for a gladiatorial career like in medieval Rome for example. Some of the pretty women were traded in the market in order to live an abused existence. The aged and the children were simply left to perish! All these distresses and its repercussions were relished by an assemblage of viewership indicating Thanatourism is quite an age old trend.
Why dark tourism matters?
Despite its association with the macabre and destruction Dark tourism is a form of tourism one cannot ignore. Whether it is an unethical form of tourist entertainment is purely a matter of debate, but it is a fact that Dark tourism occupies a significant share of tourism industry as a whole. Movement of tourists towards disaster sites generates money improving the economic status of those who lived through the holocaust.
A learning opportunity
More the frequency of tourist visits to the disaster site more exposure would follow, and the site would come under the global limelight with all its prominence and will surely make its presence felt in the world of tour and travel. Catastrophes have struck in the past. Who knows they may strike in the future as well. But the cycle of life has to go on. Future generations of those suffered in a calamity must not sit and brood in gloom and sorrow. There is no way out until they shake off the nightmare
Dark tourism has always been a matter of interest among academic circles. Precisely as to what exactly draws a tourist to a place that had once been a witness to an array of disasters like genocides and large scale human sufferings is still a baffling question shrouded in enigma. Quite surprisingly, there may well be evidences where a tourist fond of calm and pristine locale may at the same time opt for a disaster struck destination or for that matter a devout tourist having an inclination towards religious sites may find Thanatourism site appealing.
Is it the legendary Dr Jekyle and Mr Hyde psychology common to a few stray cases is underway or this bizarre tourist choice can be identified with a large behavioral sample? The entire issue has been focused under the lens, and to draw a conclusion would be too early and hasty decision unless further investigation for the real motive behind Thanatourism is initiated.
From the psychological angle, to know more about tourist preference is a significant criterion to frame strategies and policies, which would support the growth of tourism industry and lend strength to its bottom-line. Even if we delve deep into the minds of tourists turned on by dark tourism, subtle shift in preferences might be noticed.
Some may show interest in sites where a volcanic eruption or a devastating quake might have wiped out human lives and property changing the land topography and the character of local vegetation. Others might be drawn towards destinations stained with mass annihilations and punishment camps. Is it the dormant sadistic side in us that wakes up at the lure of an equally blood stained fodder is a difficult question, but nevertheless it contributes to the future of tourism no matter how intense is the stigma that colors the impression of Dark tourism in the eyes of the cynics and critics.
Assessing the social, political and economical impact
The fact that mass destruction of human life has social, political and economical impact can hardly be overemphasized. History confirms it, and the media shouts on the grossness of the crime and may be praiseful or severely critical of the local administration on how it handled the crisis, be it a historical or recent event. The powerful factor that drives the tourist is-what might have been the mental state of the victims moments before everything blacked out in the most horrible manner.
The call to some tourist is irresistible, and they decide of exploring the fabled site to have a field exposure to the infamous place and it looked like where people died in large numbers. Even some over enthusiasts would likely to hunt for fresh clues and relics, undiscovered as yet that could vouch the dreadful incident that happened long back in the past. Dark tourism is just not another form of tourism. It has a connotation that matters.
How to get more information on Dark Tourism
When the electronic media rules the world of information what could be a better option than the internet? Engage your selected search engines feeding them with Dark tourism key words and here you go. One thing easy about getting updates is there aren’t a large number of destinations in the world featuring ‘thanatourism’. You can easily narrow your search and get thorough information. In all probability, Dark tourism is an interesting topic drawing controversial views.
Apparently, it looks like a stigma in the Hall of Fame of all possible forms of niche tourism and there lies the beauty of it. Having an inclination towards places showcasing death, disaster and sufferings are in fact a reflection of our own complex thought process and mental architecture. It triggers academic interest and has consequently resulted in submission of papers by academicians.
Printed information, books, and texts on dark tourism
So information on Dark tourism may also be acquired offline as you forage into the world of books and magazines. Visits to libraries and book fairs can get you what you are looking for. Volumes of exhaustive texts have been featuring sites infamous for obliteration of human lives in a colossal proportion, and of course the blood, gore and the pain that went with it. There had to be a reason perhaps political, economic and natural disaster. The numbers are important and casualties shocking enough to stir adequate storm in a tourist’s cup of tea. The information encourages a visit to find out how must have been the place where such mindless butchery had exterminated entire settlements.
Travel magazines and forums on thanatourism could be important sources of information although the subject of discussion could be a little wacky. Write ups by visitors exposed to disaster zones can well bring up interesting features and the perils as well. Information regarding special local laws, accommodation and local transportation choices are all important factors guiding the tourist to frame his tour program.
Tourism ministry of destinations
The ministry of tourism of the destination country concerned could enlighten the interested tourist on important updates and information the tourist is looking for.The information is expected to be authentic suiting the tourist’s purpose. The ministry must have websites with a way in for the customer to shoot his queries. For that matter, the travel agents could also deliver all information the tourist requires. Since the agencies are very much involved in the touring process, the information is likely to come genuine factoring in all the issues the tourists might face while touring.
Hotels, resorts, and other types of lodgings could be the storehouse of information
Hotels located in Thanatourism sites could also be a storehouse of information for the tourists intending to visit dark tourism sites. These establishments are in regular business handling tourists every day. They are live to the day to day developments going around thanatourism sites. The locations of the sites, their relative distances from the hotels and resorts and the network of route connections, the transport that would reach the tourists to disaster memorials and museums are vital pieces of information to the tourists. These hotels can be reached out online through their websites and required information retrieved.
Tourism forums and groups
Another genuine information source can be designed by forming a group of like minded tourists having an appetite for disaster struck site. The members could be from various exposure backgrounds. Some may have a strong desire and yet to make any ventures. Some may have some exposure with. Some may have some exposure with one or two sites under coverage while there may be still others who are veterans with a wide range of experience. Flow of thoughts, experiences, factual data and opinions could well constitute a significant information bank. Information acquired would be live and interesting!
Importance of planning in Dark Tourism
Dark tourism is a slightly unusual form of tourism appealing to the darker sides of human mind. The dormant sadist in us fired by the catalyst of curiosity and a quest for knowledge is perhaps the guiding motivation driving us towards destinations, which have turned into legends in terms of horrible atrocities and disasters they present. In spite of all its uniqueness and special features that set it apart from other niche tourisms, planning is a common exercise that serves as a standard yardstick to guide you through your journey with a control on deviation that tends to make your trip unworthy of the money you spend.
Enough research is needed
Once you have selected a destination for Dark tourism, you start searching the internet covering all the aspects of specialty, attractions, hazards and peculiarities linked to the chosen site. With photography based illustrations backed with anecdotes, experts’ views, blogs and historical significance of the chosen site turning apparent will probably leave you with the million dollar question if the chosen destination would worth an effort and expense for a visit? In fact, before visiting the destination, you have come to know about it from the exploration of a virtual tour map through internet. You haven’t yet boarded your flight, and yet you have everything at your finger tips courtesy your internet visit, and there lies the beauty of planning.
Avoiding unpleasant situations
Certainly you do not like to encounter unwanted surprises, hassles and inconveniences when you are halfway through your trip. Planning helps you to work out a predetermined scheme to keep the confusions, unforeseen difficulties, slips and misses at bay. Planning would be a fundamental guideline the need of which you will feel in every stage of your Dark tourism venture.
Proper documentation is crucial
Planning at the onset of your journey requires all your paper works and documentations are complete in every respect. Check your passport and see that it hasn’t lost its validity. Expiry date is far off and your visa is free from defects. Book your hotel in advance after a thorough survey and this would save you bafflement created in the wake of last moments rush. Booking your flight well in advance will help you avail flight fare discounts. If you intend to ride on the services of a travel agency, find out from the internet or from other media sources the reliability of such an agency. The credentials of the tour operator would be an important factor while planning your trip. It makes all the difference between a wonderful journey and a disgusting experience!
All your plan components must be coordinated together in the most feasible manner so as to achieve maximum satisfaction, value addition and minimum confusion and annoyance. Planning gives you the direction and focus to your trip lacking which proper exploration in Dark tourism is unthinkable.
Creating a feasible and hassle-free Dark Tourism itinerary
Effective planning would involve drawing up the sequence of your trip in an intelligent way. The trip itinerary should not be erratically patterned. Haphazard trip charting would generate chaos and puzzlement, and would certainly give you a feeling that the spots that you have viewed in the initial stage of the trip should have been touched in the end and vice versa.
Pooling of funds
Funding your dark tourism trip would be another important component to be included in your planning tool. You must carry sufficient funds to take care of the trip expenses and at the same time it should not be big enough either to leave you with a huge cash inventory to risk a burglary or tempt you to incur unnecessary expenditure. Better take your bank card instead of liquid cash to draw money only when required.
Preparations for dark tourism
Certain preparatory steps you need to take which are very useful prior to going out. You have to visualize the scenario like simulating the real-life situation as to what problems may come across your way and how to handle them. Preparation would start from finding and fixing a travel agency if you prefer one. Their credentials are important and have confirmation on it. If you want to travel all by yourself, first get some authentic write up on Dark tour destination you are visiting. This will act as a rough guide.
Get your flight and accommodation booked. Get photocopies of tickets and leave a copy back home with someone you can trust. Have photocopies of your passport and visa and keep copies of each back home. Check on your list of items you are taking on your trip. Essentials such as debit cards, camera kit, medicines, flight and hotel tickets and off course a reasonable amount of money are to be carried under proper care and safety. Check that your luggage weight does not exceed the limit stipulated by the airport authority else you may have to pay a hefty penalty. Make sure you do not carry anything objectionable in the airport. You may get detained.
Make sure you take proper vaccines if necessary before visiting the touring site. Educate yourself about the laws and regulations and the political situation of the destination to ensure that your visit to the Dark Tourism site will be entertained or not. There are certain sensitive issues which should be duly factored in. Get prior approval from the concerned authority before stepping out for dark tourism destination.
You need to organize and reschedule the commitments and engagement you have during the period of stay outdoors. There must be meetings and settlement of certain dues and payments. Before leaving station see that these commitments are taken care of or else may trigger trouble.
Before leaving your house ensure its proper security making it burglar proof or by hiring a caretaker. Small lapses may leave you in a sorry state after your return. Regarding mail and incoming merchandise delivery inform the nearest courier agents to hold your mails in your absence so that you can come back and collect and nothing goes amiss!
Set an auto reply on your e mail that you are on a vacation. Certain things that seem to be trifle may create some hassles. For example, operating a foreign ATM counter may be tricky you need to have some prior training.
Stock up well with essentials
In some countries power cut, is a regular feature. You will face problems recharging camera batteries. Take spare batteries, lenses and adapters so that your desire to take photography of disaster sites doesn’t get hampered. Have latest updates on the currency conversion rates with reference to the country you are visiting. This would certainly have a bearing on your expenses on Dark tourism.
Budgeting Dark Tourism
Budgeting is an essential feature of Dark tourism as it gives you a direction to the estimates of expenditure involved. The cloud of mist gets clarified, and you arrive at the decision if the funds available with you are enough to cover your trip expenses. You may defer your tour program if you are financially not ready to undertake the voyage as it is embarrassing and even dangerous to find yourself in a state of cash crunch just half way through your Dark tourism trip.
Much of your budgetary decision would be guided by following:
- Location of the destination.
- The social, economic and political condition of your destination.
- The season of your visit.
- The quality of infrastructure available as regards hotel accommodation, transport facilities, restaurants and eateries, shopping malls, museums and sites exhibiting the remains of large scale atrocities and destruction.
- General awareness and level of education of the local inhabitants and their exposure to globalization and modernity.
Factors that will affect your budgeting dark tourism
Location plays an important part in budgeting dark tourism. Visiting Congolese genocide site, places where the autocrat Idi Amin had carried out his beastly exploits or other African sites of carnage and widespread destruction calls for a slim budget as compared to viewing Nazi camps in highly developed Germany or the Hiroshima memorial in highly affluent Japan.
Food, accommodation, and transporation
Your expenses will count on the standard of accommodation, food and transportation available depending upon the positional advantage of the destination. This gets certainly reflected in your tour budget plan. Then off course discounts on availing bulk services like forming large tour groups and booking a number of hotel rooms is possible in expense cutting method.
Booking of flights well in advance can get you rebate benefit which you must avail. Dark tourism locations usually features museums and preserved areas where remains of the ghastly nightmares are restored intact. Mounds of skulls, fragments of apparels worn by the victims long dead, murder weapons and torture devices are displayed as an ugly contrast to our achievement of all round progress and modernization in a rather satirical exhibit. The tourist needs to capture the entire scenario and photography is the best way to go about it. Expenses related to photography must be factored in your Dark tourism budget.
Look for offseason discounts with hotels and resorts as it leaves some space in your budget schedule to spend elsewhere.
Other associated expenses
Mementos, relics, replicas and artifacts recalling the dreadful past that led to a loss of human lives in thousands would be on sale by local vendors in and around the disaster sites. Budget should accommodate the expenses incurred on procuring these souvenirs of immense historical and political value. The items you decide to buy may appear bland with no special quality setting them apart as a decorative piece. Yet these may turn out quite expensive due to their historical and macabre connection with genocide and large scale torture.
If you intend to buy a replica of authentic Nazi pistol or torture weapons to add to your curio collection, the idea may turn quite expensive, and you need to make a provision for such purchases in your budget framework. The season you intend to visit the Dark tourism sites has a profound bearing on your budget. If you visit Germany during winter to explore what the concentration camps were like, you need to take warm clothing if you don’t have enough stock of woolen garments and that gets a place in your budget prior to visiting Auscwitz, Dachau and Buchenwaldt, the burning examples of hell on earth.
On the whole, like any other niche tourism, Dark tourism with all its typical features taken into consideration calls for expenditures to be incurred to achieve the full blown satisfaction of your trip. A well-planned budget would exactly help you control your expenses at an optimum mix of cash outflows vis a vis the pleasure drawn from your Dark tourism venture!
Activities in Dark Tourism
The first impression of dark tourism is that it is unethical and dehumanizing. The fact that you have chosen a disaster hit site for your holiday vacation is likely to meet with negative responses from the inhabitants who have managed to survive the catastrophe at the cost of losing their near and dear ones and property unless your trip is focused on some constructive mission benefitting the sufferers.
As such, thantourism must not always be viewed from a negative angle. In fact, you have a lot of activities that would contribute towards rebuilding a society shattered by a quake, war or civil strife.
Reconstruction is the key word, and the million-dollar question is how far you would be prepared to mobilize resources through a combined team effort to make good the damage already sustained by the locals belonging to the Dark tourism destination. You cannot certainly bring back the dead friends and relatives to life, but you can definitely make a concerted effort in rebuilding what have been razed to the ground changing the quality of life of the people towards a better future. With a little effort and spirit put in, you can always help the survivors to shake off the trauma and start a new lease of life resting on a solid platform of purpose and optimism.
For example, if the cleaning of debris and removal of rubble is underway in a town suffering recent air raids and bombardment, you can always extend your helping hand with a little compassion and determination to speed up the renovation process. You can always reach out for the poor infant who has lost his parents in the hands of alien troops or to a widespread disaster. You can feed the child with your own hands and do the same to the countless victims of a famine for that matter.
This little act of charity would go a long way winning the hearts of people hit by fate and would certainly get you an entry ticket through the gates of heaven! Well of course the word ‘you’ is implied in a plural sense. The effort given by a single thanatourist would be as insignificant as a drop amid the mighty ocean. Efforts should come in a combined pool in order to have any significant and positive impact on the lives of the poor wretches writhing in agony and gloom. Your zeal and whole hearted effort could well bring a ray of hope in their otherwise devastated future. You can certainly bring back the lost luster that once made them beam with confidence and happiness.
If the thanatourists desire to improve the lives of the tragedy hit people or their descendants, they can well do it. Call it an act of charity or whatever even if each of them contribute a couple of dollars it can bring back smile to their faces which had been long lost. Their response to the visiting tourist would be full of gratitude and friendship. This would be a real constructive activity, which a tourist can initiate in order erase at least a small fraction of the nightmare that had been haunting the locals since past a couple of decades perhaps.
Volunteering activities with authorities
Constructive activities can be well organized by the ministry of tourism of the disaster hit country. Since the ministries enjoy certain administrative power, they are in a better position to run an activity directed at the welfare of the strife torn zone. A chunk of welfare money would come from the tourist entry tickets to tragedy museums and disaster sites. Money flowing in would find a use in providing the basic amenities of food, clothing and shelter and improvement beyond.
Best practices to be implemented in Dark Tourism
How moral is this tourism is open to debate, and anyways we are not going into an argument for that matter. Let us face the primary fact that destinations exist, which had been a target of either nature’s wrath or human cruelty resulting in extreme human sufferings, loss of life and devastation of the environment.
It is also a ground reality that nations where such tragic sites are localized have been on untiring efforts to preserve the ruins of disaster to showcase them before the visitors for perhaps a profit motive. Making profit exhibiting someone else’s sorrow is fine so long the profit finds an ethical route of disbursement. What it needs now to bring in best practices within the purview of Dark tourism is to take a look at this niche tourism from an optimistic angle.
Thanatourism won’t sound that unethical as it apparently did without weighing all the related pros and cons factored in. If the tourists stop visiting Dark tourism sites, all the meticulous exercises put in preservation of war memorials like Hiroshima A-Bomb memorial, Khmer Rouge killings fields in Cambodia, Ground Zero commemorating 11/9 and similar sites of agony and atrocities will all go in vain breeding a feeling of frustration and loss. Rubble and dust will gather, and the once legendary Thanatourism site that drew tourist interest will get buried underground and eventually fade in oblivion.
There are ample opportunities to implement the best practices that can elevate the status of Thanatourism and put it at par with other forms of tourism if not more. In fact, here you find the locals who are in real need to come out shaking off the nightmare that had been a part of their lives only to earn pity and compassion. Kind words addressed to these pathetic sufferers would hardly do much to bring back smiles on their faces. The enormous loss suffered due to a natural calamity or a terrifying air raid can only be compensated by some substantial and meaningful contribution supplied by the visitors and the local administrative body.
Aids and donations
Aids may come in the shape of tourist’s money, physical efforts lend by outside visitors if a cleaning up or a housekeeping process is still going on to put things back to place once again. The platform of the best practices in Thanatourism is an effective mix of behavioral attitude and action of the tourists. The initial action must be centered on an expression of reverence and homage to the souls of the victims who could hardly think that someday in the future their mass graveyards would draw posterity from all corners of the world bringing in wreaths and offerings perhaps accompanied by a few drops of tears.
Keeping the memorials and remains of the tragic holocaust neat, well preserved and organized is the prime responsibility of the curator or a team of experts having a thorough updation of the debacle that occurred in the past supported by causes and consequences. Figures and facts should be at the fingertips. Knowledge about preservatives and their application to ensure the entire site with its vestiges do not erode away under the exposure of sun, moisture, pollutants and from frequent tourist contacts. The objective is a strong emphasis over the sustenance of the Thanatourism site, and these are the most important aspects where best practices of thanatourism revolve around.
How to deal with the risks related to dark tourism
Dark tourism is a different form of tourism, associated with death. It provides an opportunity to people to visit the destinations and places that are associated with death or suffering. Basically, these are the disaster zones, which are little dangerous but it is still becoming popular with people.
Many countries promote dark tourism. Some of them are Italy, Japan, Ukraine, Cambodia, and the United states. These destinations and countries have realized that in past, many disasters resulted in pain and grief but, now they can be put to use for commercial gains. Those disaster sites are becoming very popular with the tourists and they visit the place to know about the disaster and its causes. This has been resulted in promoting the sights as most attractive tourism destinations.
Dark tourism- A different and important side of tourism that cannot be neglected:
Though, it is also known as unethical form of tourism and is a matter of debate, it is also a great way to know about our mistakes from the past. This can help us to take further steps so as not to repeat in future. On the other hand, it also plays an important role to improve the economical condition of the region and the tourism destination. This helps the local government to generate the sources of income for them.
Apart from the thrill and excitement, it also has its different side as people may face various difficulties during their visit to these sites. One has to evaluate the risks related to dark tourism before stepping out. Safety and security of tourists are the major problems that every destination faces. It becomes vital to deal with major problems and some of them are as follows:
Risks related to Dark Tourism:
It seems interesting to visit the disaster and sites that has been gone through pain in the past. Some sites are still under critical disaster situations and visiting those sites can be dangerous for tourists. Before finalizing the trip, get the risk factors, preventions and precautions thoroughly evaluated. Will you be able to bear the terrible scenes and narrations related to those sites?
Many tourists enthusiastic of exploring the notorious concentration camps in Poland often felt it would have been better not to visit as the stories had a deep mental impact. People may not be mentally strong enough to go through the history of killing and macabre. These are important things to be assessed.
Safety is the major thing that we have to consider before planning our trip to such places or destinations. Countries or destinations that promote dark tourism bare associated with death and situations that can lead to death. This can put tourists in danger so, it is vital to ensure that your chosen destinations are safe for you.
Many dark tourism destinations have high crime rate, which can be dangerous for the visitor. Therefore, it is essential to hire tourism service provider who can offer best tourism facilities and can make sure that you will be safe during your trip.
People prefer sites that have gone through some chemical disaster or nuclear disaster in the past. It is good to know more about the accident but you may face and can have reaction with that chemical explosion. Nuclear has its effects for decades, which can harm people years after. In order to reduce risks of these types it is better to prefer special guided tours. Experts can help you to deal with this problem and can guide you better.
It can be little dangerous to travel to a strange destination as there are people who can con and misguide you. It is better to gather authentic information about the destination. You can also hire a companion or guide who can guide you better and can help you in any problem. Visitors can visit the official information site of the destination to get authentic information. You can also take an advice of experts and can plan accordingly.
Acting responsibly while touring the dark tourism sites can help in dealing with risks related to dark tourism. Each site has its own rules and regulations and adhering to those is a must. One should not behave daringly violating the rules and invite unnecessary trouble which can be life threatening in extreme cases.
Dark tourism is becoming immense popular these days. Safety and security is the main things that every tourist should consider before embarking on their journey.
Do’s and don’ts in Dark Tourism
Dark tourism is way different from other forms of tourism that offers pure bliss and the tourists and locals happy to meet each other. Dark tourism attractions rest on a sordid platform of sufferings, death and disaster inflicted upon others that you stand to explore on your tour and draw satisfaction. The victims of genocides or natural disaster could well be someone’s friends and relatives staying in the locality.
The sites of devastation that could be a source of curiosity or inquisitiveness to the tourist arousing his academic interest may be a cause of resentment for the local residents. So while on Dark tourism, the tourist must be very watchful about the sentiment of the residents. The tourist must feel and respect the pain hanging in the air and must not make any rapturous expression of glee that may hurt the local people.
Your behavior as a tourist should be controlled and sober. Your expressions should be respectful to the tragedy struck site and paying homage to the departed souls is what is expected from the visiting tourists.
The exhibits, relics and remains may inspire you to take photographs. Before clicking your camera, ensure your co tourists are doing the same. You may ask the local authority if photography is permitted and act accordingly.
Do not do anything to give a public impression that you are turning the dark sites into merrymaking picnic spots. Having fun and engaging in boisterous amusement in the sites of sufferings doesn’t sit well on the local sentiments. Your behavior must not give any slightest indication that you are disregarding the dead. Do not litter the place with your food leftovers and other garbage.
In many countries reserved dress code is important so follow the local dress rule. Do not engage in a loud bargaining for mementos.
Do not invite strangers to your hotel rooms no matter how friendly you have grown on your trip. Do not give your hotel address and room locations to strangers either. As soon as you reach the site, collect the contact number of your nearest police station.
Likewise your hotel address and manager’s contact number must always be available with you. For that matter, if you have booked your trip through a travel agent, always have their contact number or their franchisee operating locally.
Prefer bus rides over cab service. If at all you need a taxi, ask your hotel or your guesthouse to book one.
Before paying tips for services see if it is in vogue. Hire local guides who would show you around the site and ensure that he has an authorized license.
Do not drink water from local tap supply, use packaged water it will be safe.
Do not consume alcohol in public. Even when in the hotel room, ensure from hotel administration if drinking is permitted.
Do not openly display your valuables, and keep your wallet and passport in a secured place under your clothing.
Dark tourism sites generally have deserted vast open spaces at the fringes where the massacre had been committed. It may be in the shape of abandoned ruins that had been a target of a spewing volcanic eruption. Avoid these lonely peripheries as these places are ideal for a burglary motivated assault.
Things to do post Dark Tourism
The ghastly spectacle of the aftermaths of a catastrophe preserved down the age can give you a mixed feeling. To be honest, pain and grief comes last and before that your thirst for academic interest supported by boundless curiosity is what that gets answered. The exact driving power that pulls you to a disaster is still under research. However, meticulous exploration of the ruins and remains reveal much to keep you engrossed even after your trip had been done.
Once the Dark tourism gets done, the entire experience starting from boarding your flight, checking and staying in your chosen place, your experience with the local crowd and the transport system till you reach and explore the much desired destination prepares you for your next visit. Post tourism you need to do a bit of homework to prepare yourself for similar trips in the future with your experience acquired being valuable support inputs.
Get a deeper insight of the dark reality
With a field exposure you had from your Dark tourism, you can always compare what you have seen in reality and what you had learned so far from the scripts. To take your academic interest further down, you must have recorded all detailed account that your guide had delivered to you and with your photographs as a back up support you may well start your own creative page online.
Blog your experience
You may start blogging your experiences and exposure spiced up with a dash of innovation and word play to make your writing interesting and draw viewership across the globe for internet buffs.
The quality and authenticity of your Dark tourism blogs have far reaching impacts. Interested readers would be inspired to taste what Dark tourism is like with physical visits.
If a Dark tourism site genuinely fascinates you, your blogs will be powerful and appealing. They will be instant online hits drawing in more readerships. Some of the readers won’t stop after reading. They will be motivated to take a trip to the Dark tourism sites as well. Needless to say your post tourism blogs have helped boost the tourism industry and the economic condition of the beneficiaries whose bread and butter depends upon the health of tourism industry. So your post tourism performance has helped you become a contributor towards social development, and in fact you may earn too at the same time if you write for a Dark tourism website.
Get connected with human nature
Post Dark tourism, you have lots of functions ahead which is in fact focused towards improving your inner self. Dark tourism turns on an emotional toggle inside you and after the trip you realize the existence of horror, sufferings and death, a sharp contrast to all the wonderful things you have seen and felt around. It is a realization of the world in its entirety. Good things are alternated by evils and that is the reality of life. Perhaps it sets the equilibrium of the universe and taps the philosopher in you. It makes you sentimentally stronger preparing you to take on the challenges of life on a bold footing.
Create a study workshop
The historical significance of Dark tourism is immense. With some novel idea and creativity, you may set up a study workshop with the inputs and information you have collected in your visit. The archive built up may help your kids get acquainted with the facts, figures and a detailed account of sites of disaster and tragedy, which would certainly help them in their academic pursuit. Reading a book on human tragedy and catastrophe is one thing and acquiring first hand field knowledge is quite another generating more interest. Exposure received from Dark tourism is no exception.
Top ten destinations of Dark Tourism
Though weird, the popularity of Dark tourism is on the rise. Exactly what features draw the tourist to sites of death and destruction is a matter of scholarly interest and under serious study. Human psychology is a much researched matter and it is the myriad variations of human mind that some are drawn towards destination of death and massacre.
History bears all the imprints of gruesome human acts, which teaches us repeatedly to care for mankind. While man is helpless to nature’s wrath but it is the collective human effort that helps to rebuild from the massive destruction. Here an attempt has been made to enlist ten most macabre destinations in the world which have won tourists penchant.
1)The Nazi Concentration Camps:
The Nazi concentration camps of Auschwitz-Birkenau, Oswiecim, Dachau and Buchenwald are grim reminders of the horrific persecution suffered by the Jews, Polish and non Nazis and stamped out and reduced to charred remains in the most grisly manner. The gruesome sites conserve the reminiscence of over one million poor souls who met their tragic ends in the most pathetic way. The relics of lethal gas chambers would set your hair erect. Guided tours and well preserved museum across this macabre site have made it a well known Death Tourism destination.
2)Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan:
These legendary cities of Japan bear the scar of atomic bombing. It is a stigma to the human race and yet large crowd of tourists find this Dark tourism destination a place of massive appeal. The Hiroshima Peace Museum sees millions of tourist visits every year. It exhibits the possessions of those poor victims perished under the mammoth impact of the atomic bomb dropped from Enola Gay, the plane back in 1945. The site is presented in two parts exhibiting how the city looked like before and after the bombing.
3) Ground Zero, New York, USA:
The world shivers at this name. The air raids inflicted on world trade centre and pentagon by the terrorists is perhaps one of the worst crimes committed against humanity. The terror struck on 11th September 2001 led to a large scale destruction of human life and property. A memorial and museum have been set up pulling in a large number of dark tourists every year. People gather to recollect those horrifying moments with a silent prayer that such an incident is never repeated in the history of mankind.
This strife torn central European site had been a ground for bloodbath that was noted for the most vicious battle fought during the World War 1. Battles fought between the Germans and the allied forces was long and fierce which happened in 1914-15, and the blood drenched ground still appeals the tourists on a global scale. This town has a special mention in the history of first and second world wars. However, the name was difficult for pronunciation and the British army called the place ‘Wipers’, a place lethal enough to wipe out the human race altogether.
5)Khmer Rouge mayhem in Cambodia:
The dictatorship of general Pol Pot during the Khmer Rouge regime had released a reign of terror and atrocities among the civilians which erased almost a fourth of Cambodia’s population. Mounds of skulls and dental remains of the poor victims shock the visiting tourists. Phnompenh had earned the name of Cambodia’s killing fields especially Choeung Ek presents a horrible flash back of the spell of panic and terror unleashed in the Khmer Rouge regime.
It was when the urban dwellers refused to move to the rural areas and engage in collective farming, a policy that Pol Pot’s communistic ideals tried to enforce on the civilians. Torture and execution followed the defiance leading to gory outcome, and the place turned out to be one of the destinations of Death Tourism.
6)Old Melbourne Gaol, Australia:
This infamous prison in fact has a dark and hideous past as execution of 135 prisoners took place just here. The Gaol houses the oldest prison in Melbourne. Notorious gangsters like Squizzy Taylor and the bushranger Ned Kelly spent their dark hours within the walls of this dungeon and were eventually executed.
There is an execution area for the tourists to explore and quite ironically enough Ned Kelly’s death mask is on public display. Police city watch house and the magistrate’s court are other attractions of Melbourne Gaol. There is a popular night tour with a hangman to guide you around and explain its history in finer details.
Twenty seven years after the mishap, the enthusiasts take a tour around the power plant. The tourists get to see the killer reactor and the dead town of Pripyat. A tour around the ghost town brings back harrowing memories of the nuclear calamity in which victims perished.
The tourists may visit the village of Opachychi, meet and have conversation with the re-settlers who were evacuated and moved to their villages. Though the progress of human civilization continues its forward march, this incident will continue to haunt reminding of the lapses and faults to be strictly avoided in the path of growth. Photography is permitted.
8) Pere Lachaise Cemetery, Paris:
This largest cemetery in Paris is surprisingly a crowd puller. Many celebrities lie in eternal sleep under ground in this famous graveyard. The mortal remains of Oscar Wilde, Frederic Chopin, Marcel Proust, Jim Morrison and Edith Piaf are laid to rest here that continue to draw in visitors from all over the world. Tourists gathering here love to recall the contributions of these stalwarts in various aspects of mankind and pay due respect.
This ancient Roman city was ruined to ashes in AD 79 when Mt Vesuvius spewed volcanic lava extinguishing a large number of human lives. The plaster casts of victims of volcanic eruption present a touching accolade to those struggled in the last moments of death and agony. Mt Vesuvius is still active and looms ominously over the Bay of Naples.
This event has turned Pompeii is one of the famous tourist destinations in Italy. The catastrophe that occurred in the past is a strong lure and appealing enough for the tourist to make a visit. An estimated 2000 victims were buried alive beneath the molten lava, their bodies forming a permanent cast in the volcanic wreckage. A scene ghastly no doubt but is still a powerful tourist puller.
10)Titanic Museum, Belfast, Ireland:
Not in their wildest of dreams the crew and passengers of Titanic thought it would be their ultimate journey while boarding the world famous luxury liner, which was supposed to be ‘unsinkable’. But fate proved otherwise in the maiden voyage of Titanic, a black saga in the history of marine voyage. This museum has been inaugurated to commemorate the centenary since the luxury cruise ship TITANIC went down under the deep carrying crews and passengers into the depths of abysmal death.
This museum is built in site of the legendary workshop where Titanic was built. The artifacts and vestiges of the sunk ship narrates the tale starting from the ship’s engineering drawing, construction and its culmination into death under the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean. It is the most infamous ocean tragedy that took affluent passengers on a journey from high end luxury and mirth to the terrifying grips of freezing death.