Last Updated 11 Jul 2021

Dark Tourism

Essay type Research
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Table of contents


Key Objectives

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  • The aim of the report is to study dark tourism and discuss what are the issues generated by the evolution of this phenomenon.


The report includes a definition of dark tourism, the history, a description of its target markets with its marketing implications, the push and pull factors and the various impacts caused and the challenges faced. Lastly, conclusions will be drawn.

Main Discussions


Dark tourism is demarcated as encompassing the visitation to any site allied with death, disaster and tragedy for commemoration, education or entertainment.


Dark tourism is not considered a new phenomenon as it can be referred back to the twelfth century (McCormick, 2004). As far as the Dark ages, pilgrims have started travelling to tombs. The increase in media has allowed events to be reported and repeated. With the increased improvements in technology, tourists and people can have an insight and be introduced to dark tourism (Stone, 2006).

Types of Dark Tourism

  • Dark tourism is the act of travel and visitation to the sites, attractions and exhibitions which have real or recreated death, suffering or disaster in general.
  • Many tourists have flocked to experience sites of past terror that offer grim and disturbing tragedies. However, dark tourism has become so broad that there are many sub-classifications to categorize it.

Trends of Dark Tourism

  • The main reason for visiting dark sites is because of the tourists' interest in the elements to witness executions and learn about the death of famous people and others, the demise and fall of empires, torment and suffering of sites from wars or gruesome murders.
  • Tourists also visit the sites sometimes to feel the power of faith, with the inspiration that they can get hope from these deaths (Tarlow, 2005).

Push and Pull Factors

Push Factors Some tourists prefer more daring, exciting and adventure while others with self development needs may look forward to learning about history behind the events that has happened, widening and exploring more parts of the world. Curiosity and novelty has enticed many tourists to visit dark sites. Also, some tourists travel to these sites to commemorate their family members.

Pull Factors

Sites with historical and grim events such as the United States of America where the Pearl Harbor took place have enticed many visits from the tourists. The media has played a role in promoting the sites to the public. Movies were based on sites such the Cullen house in the movie Twilight has an upsurge in tourist visitation.

Market Segments

Four tourist classifications were identified and are as follows; the organized mass tourist, the individual mass tourist, the explorer and the drifter.

The generic and niche markets are two distinct types of tourists are who visit dark tourism sites. The niche market segments usually have a particular interest in exploring the conflict and are mostly young people who are individual travellers, part of a university group with an education interest and tourists with a need for self-development (Pearce, 2005).

Marketing Implications

  • Dark tourism sites’ marketing managers need to understand the nature of the dark tourism product and not promote dark tourism wrongly having reflective implications for society at large (Stone, 2005).
  • Many tourists visiting dark sites have education as their key motivator. These sites can focus on its teaching aspects such as offering and promoting additional services such as lectures, seminars, or workshops can enhance the tourist’s experience on site. These sites can also de-market themselves to make it unattractive to cut down on the damage caused to the site.

Impacts of Dark Tourism

  • Economic Impact Tourism can help bring in revenue to improve a country's economic growth through employment and opportunities .
  • With the influx of tourists coming from around the world, tourist receipts will grow and directly contributes to the economies of many destinations.

Environmental Impact

Environmental degradation is caused by different pollutions of air, water, noise and land. Solid waste and litters that tourist dispose has contributed largely to the global environment problem. The carbon emissions of air crafts and carbon footprints of tourists have also increased air and land pollution (Yale, 2004). The zoning of dark tourism sites can help curb problems of over development.

However, it also means a sacrifice of an area for the entire site.

Socio-Cultural Impact

The sustainability of tourists going to dark tourism sites have become an issue. Because commercialization erodes historical value, it is difficult to sustain the sites and maintain the memory from the past. Also, with tourists bringing their own culture into destinations and site, culture management becomes another impact. Tourist should have an obligation to observe codes of behavior and be aware of cultural norms in the destination they are visiting (Howie, 2003).


No doubt many opportunities for the local communities will be created and this allows locals to have an improved life. Many locals can take this opportunity to show their handicrafts. However, these products will be commercialized and loses it authenticity after a period of time. Another challenge identified is that of the long-term damage caused by visitors. Inevitably the high number of visitors received by sites will have an impact in the long term. Therefore it is important to impose a visitor number management to control visitor arrivals to the sites.


Dark tourism has been defined as those visits to any sites associated with death, disaster and tragedy. It has been noted of the various factors why people decide to visit these particular sites. Because dark tourism is an umbrella for various kinds of tourism, there are issues involved and many ways to decrease the impacts caused. Dark tourism sites are highly susceptible to damage and the demand for dark tourism should be controlled via de-marketing tools. However, the issue of de-marketing to improve or lessen the tourist’s arrivals as such can still be debatable.


  1. Cohen, E. (2004).Contemporary tourism: Diversity and change. Boston: Elsevier. Howie, F. (2003) Managing the Tourist Destination, London: Continuum Lennon, J. and Foley, M. (2004) Dark Tourism, London: Thomson McCormick, M. (2004) Ground Zero and the phenomena of dark tourism, Available from: http://www. pilotguides. com/destination_guide/north_america/new_york/ground_zero. php
  2. Pearce, P. L. (2005). Tourist behaviour: Themes and conceptual schemes. Clevedon: Channel View Publications. Stone, P. R. (2005) Dark Tourism – an old concept in a new world Tourism – Journal of the Tourism Society, The Tourism Society, Quarter IV, Issue 125, . 20 Stone, P. R. (2006) A dark tourism spectrum: Towards a typology of death and macabre related tourist sites, attractions and exhibitions TOURISM: An Interdisciplinary International Journal, Vol 54(2) p145-160. Tarlow P E (2005) ‘Dark Tourism – the appealing “dark” side of tourism and more’, in M Novelli (ed) Niche Tourism, Contemporary Issues Trends and Cases. Oxford: Elsevier Butterworth-Heinemann, p47-58. Webber, S. (2007, January 1). Dark Tourism. Retrieved on January 4, 2011, from City Paper: http://www. citypaper. ee/dark_tourism/ Yale, P. (2004) From Tourist Attractions to Heritage Tourism, 3rd ed. , Elm
Dark Tourism essay

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