6. Definition of Dark Tourism

There are elements of the “ancient” in dark tourism, for example, in the construction and visitation of sites intended to maintain memory (Young 1993), and there is considerable evidence to suggest that pilgrimage and homage motivations to these monuments have prevailed (Kugelmass 1994). Visits to these sites, which could be termed dark, have been analyzed by a number of commentators within the framework of modernity (e.g., Ashworth 1996). These tend to adopt a perspective of rationality, progress, and historicism and stress the educative elements of the offerings. It is not uncommon for there to be a visitor center located at the site in question, which offers some interpretation via signage and printed material of the events being considered. The work of Foley and Lennon (1995, 1996) takes this further, discerning limitations of postmodernity in technological approaches to interpretation characterized by iconocentrism and montage; the effect of global communications on the types of events being offered as tourism products; and the strong orientation (in some cases) toward income generation, commodification, 

There is a growing awareness that tourists are attracted to an astonishingly wide variety of sites and experiences. Some of these might seem to be weird, perverted or just odd. Thanatourism or dark tourism, a term popularised by Seaton (1996), has been used as a portmanteau expression to encompass the use of sites associated with tragic and violent events for tourism. It is thus wider than ‘atrocity tourism’ but only one dimension of ‘dissonant heritage’.  

One method to evaluate dark tourism is by using a psychographic model called the Plog model (Plog, 1974). Plog developed the theory to which to classify travellers. There are the psychocentric travellers which are those who tend to be concerned with themselves, basically, fearful travellers and then there are the allocentrics which are travellers that seek variety and are experimental, fundamentally, travellers that wants the unique and daring. Dark tourism as a form of history must be presented in a way that permits history to be mixed with adventure and sentimental emotions to be mixed with physical activity. From Plog’s model it is safe to say that a person who seeks dark tourism is to be found on the psychocentric side, this does not mean that the allocentrics will avoid dark tourism sites. 

Dark tourism is a part of historical tourism and heritage tourism. From Seaton’s (1996) point of view, death is the one heritage that everyone shares and it has been an element of tourism longer than any other form of heritage and how dark tourism can be located within a historical tradition. Lennon and Foley (2002) go on to argue that pilgrimage is also one of the earliest forms of tourism. This pilgrimage is often associated with the death of individuals or groups, mainly in circumstances which are associated with the violent and the untimely. Such acts of remembrance, sometimes acquiring greater significance and the dead are often buried in sites designated for this purpose and memorialised with a headstone. Tourism to graves is by no means a phenomenon with the modern world (Seaton, 1996). Visiting sites which could be said to be connected to death such as mausoleums is a significant part of tourist experiences in many societies.The name dark tourism is best used to describe tourists’ fascination with death and the macabre. Some dark tourism is more sinister, such as the interest in going to see Auschwitz, Lockerbie or Ground Zero. It is a similar phenomenon to the desire to slow down and look at accident scenes on the motorway. Dark tourism sites such as World War II concentration camps are popular visits especially by Israeli parties which often take form of a pilgrimage and while for others the visit are for historical interest. Another example, In Romania, arrivals of foreign visitors in 1990 increased by 1.6 million in the previous year (Light and Dumbrãveanu 1999). Although many visitors were certainly not tourists, the sights and sites of the overthrow of Nicolae Ceauçescu and Eastern Europe’s most violent revolution did have a particular tourist appeal. This is another example of a long-established trend – the consumption of sites associated with death and disaster – termed ‘dark tourism’ (Foley and Lennon 1996) or ‘thanatourism’ (Seaton 1999). 

Marcel (2003) argues that ‘unfortunately, in a world where images of crisis and disaster can be instantly broadcast around the world, a strange combination of empathy and excitement can make tragedy sites into tourist attractions’. The humankind is indeed very strange and takes interest in a variety of things. This brings upon the many psychological variances that are in human beings.