The rise in dark tourism – where travellers visit historic sites of death and disaster – is creating ethical challenges for authorities, according to GlobalData. The data and analytics company notes that site managers should tread carefully to avoid trivialising the event being memorialised.
Dark destinations can vary from sites of death such as graves, cemeteries, mausoleums, ossuaries or tombs, to sites of killings such as assassination, death, battlefields or genocide.
Hannah Free, Travel and Tourism Analyst at GlobalData, comments: “Fascination with sites of death and destruction is neither a new nor a specifically Western phenomenon. Nevertheless, touristic visitations to sites of death and disasters are becoming a pervasive feature of modern society and, as a result, travellers’ itineraries.”
GlobalData’s latest report, ‘Dark Tourism Case Study including Trends, Motivations, Marketing Strategies, Opportunities and Challenges’, reveals that the ethical implications are one of four main challenges for dark tourism, alongside keeping experiences authentic, battling overtourism, and handling questions over integrating modern technology into the sites.
“Dark tourism,” says Free, “has the power to bring history alive and offers visitors the opportunity to learn from the past. However, commodification is an undeniable consequence that sees gift shops selling items such as mugs and keychains. These risk disrespecting and devaluing the meaning behind destinations and sites of commemoration.”
In its report, GlobalData suggests that authorities should consult with locals, survivors and victims’ families to discuss how to manage profits.
“Cultural programmes, the local community, preservation and education are all areas that would benefit from directed dark tourism site profits,” Free adds.