A rise in dark tourism—where travelers visit historical sites of death and disaster—is creating ethical challenges for authorities. Site managers should tread carefully to avoid trivializing the event being memorialized.
Dark destinations can vary from sites of death such as graves, cemeteries, mausoleums, ossuaries or tombs, to sites of killings such as assassination sites, sites of mass death, battlefields, and genocide.
Fascination with sites of death and destruction is neither 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, travelers’ itineraries.
Latest report, ‘Dark Tourism Case Study Including Trends, Motivations, Marketing Strategies, Opportunities and Challenges’, reveals that the ethical implications is one of four main challenges for dark tourism, alongside keeping experiences authentic, over tourism, and questions over integrating technology.
Dark tourism 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.
Steps should be taken to ensure that the tours are responsible and educational. For instance, the 9/11 Ground Zero Museum Workshop hosts student and educational tours on a regular basis.
The report suggests that authorities consult with locals, survivors and victims’ families to discuss how to manage profits.
Cultural programs, the local community, preservation, and education are all areas that would benefit from directed dark tourism site profits.