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Current Relationship of International Tourism with Dark Tourism and Implications of Future Trends

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Introduction: The main aim of this assignment is to show the relationship Dark Tourism has with International tourism and how it will implicate on future trends. “Tourism is one of the ways in which we attempt to approach and understand otherness” (Willis, 2014). Dark tourism has recently become a huge attraction for tourists that have an interest in historical sites which have been involved in mortality or tragedy. The relationship between death and tourism has become a huge topic of research within the tourism studies, but the understanding of dark tourism remains limited.

Visiting sites such as Hiroshima nuclear bomb in Japan, Ground Zero 9/11 memorial in New York, concentration camps in places such as Auschwitz in Poland, graveyards where famous people are buried, Pompeii, Alcatraz federal prison offshore from San Francisco and much more are some of the popular areas people would like to tour. Tourists travel to see these sites for their dark eerie history that took place in the area and it is a way of confronting mortality with the modern society. Although dark tourism has been there a long time it is only recently becoming phenomenally popular widespread and there is still more research currently being made. Smith (1998), suggests that areas that were connected to war are ‘the largest single category of tourist attractions in the world’ (Sharpley and Stone 2009). Also, varied death related attractions such as the ‘Dracula Experience’ in Whitby, UK or the Vienna’s Funeral Museum sites of some ‘famous’ deaths (Alderman 2002). Theses are only some of the very few ‘dark tourism’ attractions that have become popular to people that want to gain such experiences. Definition: “Tourism is a collection of activities, services and industries which deliver a travel experience comprising transportation, accommodation, eating and drinking establishments, retail shops, entertainment businesses and the hospitality services provided for individuals or groups travelling away from home” (Feuler 1905). There was an average of 25 million internationals tourists in 1950 but it has recently grown to 763 million in 2004. The usual package holidays are made for sun seekers and more thrill seeking travellers.

However, in recent years people have been attracted to travel for different reasons such as “towards sites, attractions or events that are somehow linked to negative historical events where death, violence, suffering or disaster played a major role” (Sharpley and Stone 2009). As we know Dark tourism is becoming very popular in recent year, yet the origins of dark tourism started years ago in Roman times where people would gather in the arenas to watch the gladiator fights or whiteness public executions during the medieval times (Stone 2005). This type of tourism has been alive for several years, but it did not gain the name ‘dark tourism’ until 1996 by Lennon and Foley (2006).

Subsequently some people have tried to retract the label ‘dark tourism’, Blom labelled it ‘morbid tourism’ and Seaton also introduced the term ‘thanatourism’ in 1996. The term Dark Tourism is related to war, slavery and death memorial. Ashworth (2004) has came up with four characteristics a site or an event should have on the ‘dark tourism’ site for the attraction to be successful. The first feature that he mentioned is that there must be a human perpetrator just as there must be a human victim, if these people are present, they can identify themselves as perpetrators or victims. Secondly, the perpetrator must have taken part in and intended action and the victim needs to be innocent and not dominating their own condition. The third feature that he mentions is atrocity involves excellent seriousness or unusualness. It must be very out of the ordinary to be able to catch the tourist’s attention. Lastly Ashworth mentions “an atrocity is an event that is known and remembered which requires knowledge and memorability” (Ashworth 2004).

The History of Dark Tourism: Pilgrimage is viewed as one of the earliest forms of ‘dark tourism’. Pilgrimage is originally identified as a religious or spiritual significance. It is often not only related to the death of people but these deaths usually have a religious or conceptual importance that has meaning to a group of people. This may contain a psychological journey for the observers. This may sometimes be related with reaching the social or economic standing (Lennon and Foley 2003). As mentioned above in the early stages of the existence of dark tourism is the curiosity of death, for example the public executions in the medieval times and also the gathering of people to watch gladiator fights during the Roman times, the Roman Colosseum is also seen as one of the first dark tourism attractions. Dark Tourism Travel Motivations: “Motivation (in tourism) those factors which make tourists want to purchase a particular product or service” (Swarbrooke and Horner 2007).

Tourist behaviours is a very complex matter as there is not one specific perception of what motivates tourists to travel. Crompton’s classification of travelling motives (1979), presented by Albanese & Boedeker (2003) has listed seven characteristics which they think motivates tourists; Escape from weekly life routines, relaxing, escape from socially acceptable roles, self-evaluation and contemplation, raising status, improving relationships between family and lastly increasing social intercourse (Albanese & Boedeker 2003, 108 – 109). There is also the Push/ Pull factor which identifies different motivations. Push factors allow tourists to pursue activities to satisfy their needs, for example, adventure, thrill seeker, desire of escape, social interactions.

On the other hand, the Pull factors are generally known for tourists travelling to a destination that they have a lot of knowledge on before travelling to, such as recreation facilities, beaches or cultural attractions (Crompton 1979). Regularly people presume people that are interested in dark tourism are in search of attractions related to death and disaster, but they are also interested in the search of history and heritage, education, reminders of the past and suffering (Genov 2008). From past research there are seven different types of dark tourism site which include; Holocaust tourism, battlefield tourism, prison tourism, slavery- heritage tourism, monument tourism and black spot tourism. When visiting a ‘dark tourism’ site or attraction it can cause a lot of different emotions depending on each individual that is visiting, it may have a positive or negative affect. Plutchik examined the emotions of people depending on which destination they are visiting, he put them into four different sets of the positive and negative emotions. The four sets consist of; joy vs. sadness, trust vs. disgust, fear vs. anger, and surprise vs. anticipation (Plutchik 1980).

Trends and Issues with ‘Dark Tourism: Dark tourism comes across as a negative factor within tourism as it is mainly focused on death and horror, but for attractions such as concentration camps, holocaust memorials etc. were all reopened to tourists into dark tourism site in respect of the victims that died. Everyone is different and has different thoughts, some may think that evidence from past dark events should be destroyed because they want to forget and move on from those past events. On the other hand, some people want to hold onto all the evidence of the past events and share with others of what is left in honour of those who were killed. By having these memorial sites, it helps people who experienced and survive or know family members, come out and speak about their own stories. Primo Levi, one of the few who survived the Holocaust, stated that “with the passing of the years and decades [barracks and death camps] do not lose any of their significance as a Warning Monument; rather, they gain in meaning” (Lennon and Foley 2006).

Many of these attractions have also recently included media videos to give the observers a more vivid experience of the tragedies. These sites can be very educational to people who would like to know about the history of these events. Some people are now interested in this type of tourism rather than the usual sun holiday, this is because they want to see the reality, and scars that were left. Dark Tourism is said to be a “mind -broadening exercise” (Hohenhaus 2010). There are also some issues as well as positive aspects in dark tourism. While recreating these attractions where tragedies occurred, some ay think that the real experience would be destroyed and ruined because it has been revamped. This may make the visitors take these destinations less serious (Bowe 2014). Another disadvantage would be is that not a lot of young people and tourists of lower education would have much interest in these types of events, it would attract an older generation. This type of tourism sometimes may not be any benefit on the locals or victims because in order to promote this type of tourism, a lot of money and care from the government is essential (Maharjan 2015).

Future of Dark Tourism: Some may see dark tourism as a motivation to travel to see these historical dark places, yet others may see dark tourism as a way of making money out of tragedy. It may be hard for some attractions to deal with reactions of some visitors in relation to sympathy and security. However, where will dark tourism be in the future? “if atrocious and murderous nature of humans continues through was and terrorism, the potential for a tourism scenario to which death is a product of entertainment for a wealthy-elite will become reality in the future” (Wright 2016). From research it identifies how dark tourism will be managed differently and has a lot of potential development. There are different factors that show the potential development in this industry, these factors have been identified from previous scholars. Terror Parks: Dr Wright illustrated how he thinks dark tourism could have potential and that in the future there will be entertainment and success in having ‘terror parks’ by 2100. In exclaims that these parks will have a “higher intensity of entertainment as motivation(demand) and experience(supply). These parks will be particularly focused on the horror and death of past events (Wright 2016).

Popular ‘Dark Tourism’ Destinations: Hiroshima: In 1945 an atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima in Japan. Bomber Enola Gay dropped the atomic bomb on the 6th of August 1945 near the end of the World War II. The place was surrounded by heat of up to 4,000 degrees Celsius killing over 140,000 people and leaving several with terrible injuries (Ryan 2017). Since then, Hiroshima has become a very popular destination for dark tourism. “The first narrative promoted by America in military tourism was that it was a city and a sight of ruin, where you come and see the awesome, mighty power of the bomb,” says Ran Zwigenberg, which is a historian at Penn State University. The city has since built a memorial park filled with memories, a museum, a library and plenty of green space. They say that the city is to be shown as a ‘centre of world peace’. By promoting peace, it was they’re main aspect of attracting visitors to their city. Approximately 340,000 international people visited the Hiroshima Peace Memorial in 2015 (Poon 2017). Ground Zero, 9/11: On the 9th of September 2001 there was a terrorist attack that destroyed the twin towers, where nearly 3,000 people were killed (Hohenhaus 2010). According to research the attack was associated with 19 terrorists who hijacked four airplanes who deployed suicide attacks targeting the United States.

The first two planes crashed into the twin towers, the third hit the pentagon outside Washington and the fourth in a field at Pennsylvania. (History. com Editors 2010) Since the terrorist attack, America wanted to make a memorial for remembering the victims. On the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, the ground zero memorial was revealed. The ‘Reflecting Absence design’ was by the architect Michael Arad. The memorial includes waterfalls flowing into reflecting pools where the twin towers stood. There is also a spectacular museum which takes the visitors on the influential expedition of the 9/11 events. Since the official opening on average nearly 5 million people have visited the memorial and museum. (Craig Nelson 2016)Auschwitz, Poland: Auschwitz is a concentration camp that was found by Germans in 1940. The Nazi concentration camp has become a symbol of terror and the Holocaust. The camp is dedicated to the memory of the victims that died at the camp during the World War II and it is situated on the outskirts of the city Oswiecim, Poland (Auschwitz-Birkenau 2018). This would be a highly popular dark tourism destination with over 44 million people that has visited the site since 1945.

Conclusion: From research above it shows that Dark Tourism is very popular and is a growing new tourism, but it also shows that this type of tourism may not suit some people due to the upset and the past tragic events. Dark tourism has much relation to culture and heritage tourism as it is specified mainly on historic events. People like to travel to these certain types of attractions in respect and curiosty of what happened, they are fascinated with these tragedies, but it also can bring out a lot of emotion.

Dark tourism is around to keep the remembrance of the victims who have died in certain events. Dark tourism is also becoming a huge factor in education. By going to these memorials and attractions it will have a huge help in educating people who have never heard much about certain tragic events. This assignment proves that Dark tourism is on the rise and is getting more popular every day. Just recently on the popular media services provide ‘Netflix’, they have uploaded a new series called ‘The Dark Tourist’, so the phenomenon of Dark Tourism will no doubt become an even more popular option for tourists as the platform has such a powerful influence on its viewers.

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Current Relationship of International Tourism with Dark Tourism and Implications of Future Trends. (2020, May 19). GradesFixer. Retrieved August 16, 2022, from
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