The statement 'dark tourism' is continuously gaining popularity as a form of tourism with increasing preference among tourists around the world. The term dark tourism can elaborate the relationship between individual interests in death and the macabre and tourism attraction. In general dark tourism is a fashion. The concept involves visiting sites associated with specific incidents such as death and suffering. Traveling to places of genocide, former concentration camps, areas of mass destruction, historical battlefields and prisons all form part dark tourism. The concept of dark tourism is not a new concept since the excitement people derive from traveling and experiencing places related to death dates back to the eleventh century. There is a universal acknowledgment that death is inevitable therefore visiting dark exhibit and attractions enable identifying with the experience. The sites associated with Thana tourism must meet specific identifying characteristics to fit the definition of dark tourism attraction sites. They are four typical attributes that a place should hold to enhance its chances of being successfully turned into a tourism product. The first attribute is that there must be a perpetrator of the act just as there exist victims. The existence of both human perpetrator and human victim enable visiting individuals to identify with either group. Secondly, it crucial that the perpetrator took part in the act in their conscious mind and that they intended to engage in the actions. On the other hand, the victims must qualify to be innocent regarding the atrocities that occurred and that they could not defend themselves. The concept of consciousness will present the actions as barbaric. Thirdly, the crimes must be grave or must be an unusual occurrence. The fact that the incident is not typical and is out of the ordinary is what attracts the attention of the observers and differentiate the atrocity from regular cruelty. The fourth characteristic is that the outrage must rank among the events that are known and remembered, therefore, require memorability and knowledge.
Extent of darkness
The supply of dark tourism cannot adequately be analyzed unless one understands tourist's behaviors and recognize their specific demand for dark travel. Supply in dark tourism come in a variety. However, there is a need for a well-structured foundation of supplying the various attractions to help in the identification and researching on tourists experience and motivation. There is not enough evidence to enable the classification of dark tourism as either demand or supply driven industry. Most of the previous studies mainly focus on the supply section. The demand side of it that is dominated by the identification of the motivating factors of tourist to visit places associated with dark tourism has not received much attention from researchers. Meaning that there is insufficient information regarding the purposes and reasons that support tourists desire to visit places of past atrocities or to qualify their prospective drivers of dark tourism.
Dark tourism attraction site has varying level of darkness. Therefore, there exists a difference between darker and lighter attraction sites. To understand the concept one can compare Robben Island and Alcatraz. Both of the sites are the former prisons that are currently converted into attraction sites (Isaac & Cakmak, 2016). They also have different storylines, but share some attributes. Alcatraz depicts itself presently as an entertainment and commercial site, while the Robben Island is still sticking to its seriousness nature and upholds a high level of political influence in its interpretations. It means that Robben Island always focuses on the previous attributes of remembrance, honoring, and promoting education. Therefore, from the comparison, Alcatraz qualifies as a lighter attraction while Robben Island assumes the darker side of attraction.
The supply of dark tourism is not entirely dictated by customer's preference since marketing and current media significantly influence the tastes. The supply is also exposed to the effects of cultural and political changes in the society (Kim & Butler, 2015). Therefore, one can conclude that the extent of darkness present in each dark attraction site vary according to how it is presented by old or new events such film, media, articles, and news. A paradigm exists for lighter and darker attraction sites. Mostly there is a difference between places that have relation to torment and death and the palaces that torture and death took place. Meaning that a distinction is evident when visiting the Holocaust Museum in Washington DC, which is a lighter experience compared to visiting the holocaust death camps like Mauthausen or Auschwitz, which is a darker attraction site. Sites, where the actual death occurred, are more mysterious and attract far more severe perception than, places lighter palaces that purposely display a connection to death. The darkest attraction sites are situated authentic and strategic locations, where the atrocity occurred, and they provide a much lower touristic utility such as infrastructure as compared to the lighter counterparts. While the lighter sites focus on commercialization, the darker places present a higher level of educational purpose and attract the perception of authenticity by concentrating on conservation and commemoration as opposed to commercialism. The darkest of all the sites are where the most recent tragedy happened while the lightest are those sites that provide advanced touristic infrastructure and whose primary purpose is to entertain people leading to a lower perception of authenticity by tourist. In the darkness spectrum, the darkest sites are considered most severe and without any doubt, the death camps of genocide qualify for the list. The middles of the scale are represented by dark dungeons and resting places while the lightest end is occupied by sites where individuals can find dark fun factories. An excellent example of a dark fun factory is the Dracula Park in Romania. Since numerous studies are dealing with the supply side of tourism, it is imperative also to handle the demand side to add on to the limited information.
The concept of dark tourism is full of several controversies. People have different opinions on whether it is appropriate or not to visit places associated with the controversial history of humanity. According to the reports of World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC), tourism ranks among the most significant industries in the world. The sector has continuously thrived, and people are consistently searching new trends, exciting reasons to travel and various types of adrenaline rushes (Crotti & Misrahi, 2015). Dark tourism is also evolving and bringing up new patterns, even though it has been practiced for several years. The tourism society has emphasized the concept, leading to the growth of the field of dark tourism into an exciting and important topic in the broader tourism industry. The significant increase experienced in the tourism industry in the past half-century has also led to the widespread and diversity of dark tourism. In the contemporary society, dark tourism is now widely recognized as a form of tourism and even as a tool for promotion. Up to a certain level, dark tourism may be interpreted as a source of financial benefits to most attraction sites. The extent of benefits derived from the activity extensively depends on the commercialization of the specified attraction sites. Despite the income side of the sector it is also important to mention that it has an educative factor. Therefore the media is there to present all sides of the story. An individual has to choose what literature is beneficial to them. Those willing to learn about the past still have abundant information. Individuals willing to relate to the past atrocities can also go through the literature on dark tourism. An organization interested the financial aspect of it just like the other tourism practices can also benefit from information especially articles focussing on the supply sector of dark tourism.
However, before building an argument about the essence of practicing dark tourism, one should first understand the various motives and reason that tourist has for traveling to dark tourism sites. The reasons for visiting the dark places or shrines are diverse, disparate, and sophisticated. Therefore, there exist a multitude of motives for associating with the macabre. Some studies claim that there exist some typical reasons for engaging with macabre. The motivations were investigated in the plethora studies, and they include, entertainment, curiosity, compassion, event validation, empathy identification, nationalistic motives, identity search, pilgrimage, sense of social responsibility, and education (Collins-Kreiner, 2016).
Motives for Dark Tourism
The diversity in reasons and motives brings about a variety of dark tourism and distinct types of dark tourists. The interpretations of dark sites are not entirely dependent on the tourist motives but are also greatly influenced by the image tourist hold for specific attraction sites. The other reasons and motives for engaging in dark tourism comes in variety of models including, the urge of understanding the human age, barbarism, romanticism, sign of decadence, part of national identity, spiritual experience, mystical experience, and the notion that some people are just naturally attracted to horror (Yan, Zhang, Zhang, & Guo, 2016). Tourist seeks to understand the strange things and those things that appear different to protect what is known. It also qualifies as a motive since the tourist might experience danger events in the safety of tourism environment. It is also important to note that the tourism experience varies for every tourist since people have varying interest and interpretations of things.
Some researchers also argue that dark tourism is akin to voyeurism, meaning that is associated with satisfying the desire of experiencing the forbidden (Ashworth & Isaac, 2015). But there is little evidence to prove peoples interest in death. The popularly reported motive is that people are curious to learn about past event and that drives tourist to visit the dark locations. Nonetheless, it is still difficult to state with absolute certainty the actual motive for dark tourism since most studies depend on self-reported data, and the respondent in the research would be biased and give positive reasons. The scenario is real, notably where the questions of the study incorporate sensitive subjects that might reveal a disquieting or troubling characteristic.
Despite the whole uncertainty, there is a crucial moral dimension to dark tourism. For example tourism in North Korea. Most individuals suggest that the anti-American sentiments can significantly reduce if there exist contact between the different people enabled by tourism. The visits can also create a subversive effect. Through the exposure resulting from visits, North Korea can develop an appreciation of the liberties enjoyed by other citizens in other parts of the world and compare it to the system of life. Tourism has significantly contributed to opening up North Korea and allowing individuals from other countries to visit in the past decades. Even though the contact and socializing effect resulting from tourism may enable a change in mindset among the parties involved, proponents also argue that the average citizen in North Korea does not fully interact with the visiting tourists. The tours in North Korea are well-scripted and fully guided to strictly enable engagement with the regime as opposed to the ordinary citizens. Moreover, tourism in addition to enrichment it also legitimizes the system.
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