Dark tourism can be “force for good”

But sites must be managed with sensitivity
Travel to locations associated with a history of death, suffering and the macabre has become rather popular among tourists, TTG Asia reports, a phenomenon known as dark tourism.
Pablo Escobar’s Medellin, the killing fields of Cambodia, the Auschwitz gas chambers in Poland, Jack the Ripper’s London backstreets and the apartheid jail cells in Africa are examples.
But, according to MyTravelResearch.com, ethical implications such as the tendency to trivialise past suffering and dredge up painful reminders for local communities are surfacing as a result.
The citizens of Medellin, for example, initially resisted dark tourism, unwilling to be reminded of their murderous history. Also survivors of Auschwitz raised fears that such forms of tourism trivialised tragedy, after witnessing tourists taking selfies at a genocide site.
However, Carolyn Childs, co-founder of MyTravelResearch.com, says that this can be avoided by ensuring sensitivities are properly managed.
“Firstly and most importantly, the community including victims and survivors must be consulted from the beginning and throughout the project,” she said.
Childs, who has assessed dark tourism sites around the world, added that the quality of historical interpretation and portrayed narrative is also vital. The story needs to be brought to life, she stressed, citing the example of the Apartheid Museum in Johannesburg.
There, visitors are randomly assigned a white or non-white tag, then enter the museum through different corridors, all the while being visible to one another, leading to a visceral and disconcerting experience.
Childs insists that dark tourism is a force for good, by promoting solemn learning and personal growth.
“Visiting sites such as Auschwitz are occasions for profound reflection and learning,” she said. “Particularly, if you combine them with visiting Kazimierz and Podgorze. If you are visiting Krakow and only see the positives of this beautiful city, you aren’t seeing the whole picture.”
TTG Asia

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