Nothing better than a good old tragedy. That is one of the main offer of dark tourism, a niche with a wide profile through over the World.
That kind of tourism has been defined as leisure travels to places historically associated with death and tragedy.
A particularly dismal derivation of this modality is the thanatourism. The title comes from the ancient Greek word thanatos a “personification” of death but refers more specifically to peaceful death.
But experts said that the main attraction of “dark” locations is the value of history in those places rather than their associations with death and suffering. However, the demands of the market sometimes distort the concept very badly.
“We already capture a lot of metro Melbourne visitors who come up to do the ghost tours, but we want to look at further promoting our historic sites through events as well as boutique accommodation”, recently said an Australian specialist in tourism trips.
“There’s a shift from just looking at the history of places to emphasizing the suffering that happened there”, he added. He referred to lugubrious site in Ararat, in western Victoria, the only Australian town to home two former mental asylums. The place has a unique and dark history, and the local council plans to use that to its advantage to tap into the so-called dark tourism market.
Ararat Rural City Council’s tourism manager Julie Kilpatrick said to press that “Ararat has one of the best examples of dark tourism”. “We have the 151-year-old abandoned Aradale mental asylum and J-Ward, which housed Victoria’s ‘criminally insane’ for 104 years Mrs. Kilparick explained.
According to the local press the council is also researching other dark tourism sites in Australia such as Port Arthur and Tasmania’s Dark MOFO festival to use as a model, to grow its visitation.
“I’m amazed at how many people specifically drive from Melbourne just to see J Ward. “We even get people coming from overseas… I think the history, even though it is sad and sometimes frightening, gives people a sense of intrigue, she added. “I think accommodation would be a great idea. It would mean people would stay in the region and spend more time here.”
Some experts define dark tourism as a “tricky moral area”.
A senior lecturer at the University of Tasmania’s School of Humanities, Dr Robert Clark, said that “We’re noticing more people turning up to these sites than ever before”.”After the 2000s, dark travel started to become popular and you started seeing places being marketed based on their horror and trauma and even history of catastrophe”, he said.
In his opinion “there is a bit of exploitation and opportunism” around the dark tourism.Whether a tourist attraction is educational or exploitative is defined by both its operators and its visitors.
An specialize study affirm that tourism operators motivated by greed can “milk the macabre” or reexamine tragedies for a learning experience. Tourists consuming dark tourism products may desecrate a place and case studies are needed to probe who gains and loses”.
The marketing around great tragedies is very criticized by certain social sectors.
That happens frequently in destinations of dark tourism include castles and battlefields such as Culloden in Scotland and Bran Castle and Poienari Castle in Romania, former prisons such as Beaumaris Prison in Anglesey, Wales and the Jack the Ripper exhibition in the London Dungeon. Tourism in sites of natural disasters or man-made disasters, such as Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park in Japan and Chernobyl in Ukraine, are always under analysis
It also includes sites of human atrocities and genocide, such as the Auschwitz concentration camp in Poland, the Nanjing Massacre Memorial Hall in China and the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum in Cambodia.
Many experts think that in their most relevant sites of real tragedies the “dark tourism” must highlight the historical and human interest and not exploit doubtful feelings of fun.