By Shrijeta Pratik, SY BA LLB B
The tourism industry contributes trillions of dollars to the global economy and annual transportation contributes more than 1.2 billion. An increasing number of tourists are focusing their attention on a new market: tourism to locations of death, tragedy, and atrocity. Over 2 million people visited the Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial in 2017. More than 37 million people have visited the new Ground Zero Memorial since it opened in 2011, more than a decade after the 9/11 tragedy. Due to the harsh political situation in Ukraine, conventional tourism fell by 48% in 2014, while tourism at Chernobyl, the well-known site of the 1986 nuclear accident, is on the emergence: 50,000 tourists visited the area in 2017, 35% up from 2016.
Foley and Lennon came up with the term “dark tourism” to describe this type of travel in 1996. It is defined as a “product of the late modern world’s constraints,” a foreshadowing of modern philosophy in which death is neutralized, processed, and deemed less terrifying, and hence objectified for consumption. Dark tourism has gotten a lot of academic attention in the last two decades and a lot of literature has been written about it. The following are the major tendencies in dark tourism: definitions and typologies; ethical disputes; political roles of such sites; motives, behaviors, and tourist experiences; management and marketing; and methodological questions.
Dark tourism is a sort of tourism that caters to specific interests. It is a unique type of tourism in which visitors are interested and motivated. Romania has made strides in the sphere of dark tourism with effective marketing, presenting the myth of Vlad Tepes Dracula, a Romanian nobleman from the Middle Ages. The development area for “dark tourism countries” is defined by considerable cultural and historical treasures from the past that must be appraised and for which, tourists must be viewed positively in order to get their products recognized in the global tourism market.
People who wanted to learn more about Anne Frank and the house she resided in, those who wanted to visit Auschwitz, and Gettysburg’s locally controlled tourism sector that sprung up soon after the fight are all examples of dark tourism. However, what exists today is the marketing of such situations as well as the prism of exhibitionism provided by social media. The selfie-taking masses, whose understanding of the places they visit is almost non-existent, and whose images are revolting—giving a thumbs-up in Auschwitz or a bunker in Sarajevo; sitting above a valley in the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights, eyeing the fight through binoculars; blasting an AK-47 near Ho Chi Minh City’s Cu Chi tunnel network. This sort of dark tourism is troublesome, as it joins a long list of dubious tactics used as a source of entertainment by bored humans. The majority of visitors, according to a travel company running a dark tourism business in Sarajevo, were from Australia, the United States, and other English-speaking countries. Many others were too young to remember the horrible sights of the Bosnian Serb soldiers’ 1,425-day assault.
It has been claimed that locals were uninterested in the trips because they wanted to forget about the reality that they lived it every day. It is reminiscent of the throngs who gathered outside the Taj Mahal Palace hotel in Mumbai following the 2008 terrorist attacks. Hundreds of people had congregated near the scene to take photographs. As if it were a picnic expedition, some parents had brought their children along and purchased balloons and refreshments for them. Inside, a deadly confrontation between terrorists and security personnel was unfolding, with imprisoned civilians desperately attempting to stay alive.
This is not shady travel. It is a dismal scenario.
Stone creates a typology of “dark” destinations based on the current supply in the dark tourism industry. It even introduces Seven Dark Suppliers in order to create a conceptual framework within which they can be located. The following timetable represents multiple stages of “the brightest to the darkest” destination: Dark Fun Factories are entertainment-oriented websites that depict real or imagined death and gruesome occurrences in a commercially ethical manner. As an example, Stone cites Romania’s “Dracula Park.” This entertainment-based facility, housed in a medieval fortress, depicts the legend of a bloodsucking aristocrat known as “Dracula,” as well as the lightest version of Stone’s dark spectrum. Dark exhibitions at times sell death-related items, sometimes with a memorial, instructive, or introspective attitude. Despite the protective ethic, many places have some commercially oriented tourism infrastructure. Dark displays are frequently held in locations other than the actual place of death. These shows are more likely to provoke than to tell a story.
Dark dungeons – tours and landscapes await tourists, presenting old prison terms and reconstructing judicial systems from history. This location could be the Stone spectrum’s center-ground, as it contains both dark and light parts. For example, the Chambers of Justice in Nottingham, UK, which has been dubbed the “Family Destination of the Year,” is made up of structures that were once prisons and courts. With the advertising line “Feel the Fear,” the Galleries of Justice invites visitors to participate in a unique type of legacy. Dungeon is a gloomy fun factory with a notion and a prominent illustration of the light spectrum of dark tourism. Dungeon is owned by Merlin Entertainments Group Ltd, the second-largest visitor attraction provider in the world behind Disney. Merlin Entertainments operates 58 visitor attractions in 12 countries, serving around 33 million visitors in 2007. During high season, the company employs up to 13,000 people. In parallel to the London dungeons, the Merlin Group operates dungeons in York, Hamburg, Amsterdam, and Edinburgh. Each Dungeon tells a terrifying story about their place or the most heinous occurrences in the area’s antiquity.
In the popular online landscape, dark tourism, with death as its major offering, is a prominent aspect. Depending on the social and cultural context, the phenomena of dark tourism can be intriguing, informative, and even hilarious. Death and mortality can be re-imagined in ways that elicit feelings other than primal panic and dread through dark tourism. The tagline “We see death, but we do not “touch” it,” claims that even though people are currently witnessing more fatalities than any previous generation, they are inspired by both real and projected pictures. Humans are left alone in the face of death and must rely on their own resources to check purpose and deal with the constraints of individual existence. Individuals can easily fulfill their interest and obsession with death concerns in a socially acceptable atmosphere by participating in dark tourism in its different forms. With an extent of connectivity that surrounds the supply of dark tourism, although on varying scales, the progressively socially acceptable gaze upon death and its re-conceptualization for entertainment, education, or memorial considerations can be dealt upon on various parameters.
The vast range of dark tourism destinations as well as visitors’ needs, experiences, assumptions, and socio-cultural conditions provides for nearly endless consumption of dark tourism as a technique for confronting, comprehending, and accepting death. Visitors to Auschwitz and other Nazi concentration camps today may visit these sites out of curiosity or as a method to pass the time, unaware of realizing that their visit is part of a larger process. The desire for exploring the significance of death and mortality can be completely removed from a dark tourist’s visit. Individual visitors to “dark” destinations have a variety of objectives and incentives to select from. Individuals’ perceptions of fatality will undoubtedly vary depending on their socio-cultural upbringing and, of course, the various “severities of gloom” observed in any given dark tourism product or experience. Sharpley (2005) and Stone (2006) are two examples of this. Death in the public realm can be revived through dark tourism, which makes the nonexistent death present by transferring intimate deaths to the public sector and the social frameworks from which it arises.
Dark tourism is a vast field and travel companies in each country will have significant challenges, particularly in promoting dark tourism sites. According to survey data, “dark” tourists are younger and middle-aged visitors with higher education who, based on their overall degree of awareness and understanding of history, literature, and local legends, are motivated to visit dark tourism attractions. Tour operators have a wide range of options, from dark fun factories to genocide camps, but there is room for growth in the provision of this sort of attraction, particularly in the area of battlefield tourism and many more subspecies of dark tourism that demand more attention and research. The issue that arises when analyzing the dark tourism destination is that there are no clear indications of income from this type of tourism, primarily because dark tourist attractions and destinations are supplementary tourist attributes in package tours and are not purposeful in themselves, with the exception of Romania, which has established a global brand in this field.