The Ethics Of Dark Tourism

2671 words (11 pages) Essay

10th May 2017 Tourism Reference this

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The Anne Frank Organisation (2006) states that in 2004, 936,000 visitors visited the house that used to be Anne Frank’s, a Jewish girl who among other Jews were murdered in the time of Hitler’s fascism. Among this timeframe, Auschwitz, a concentration camp based in Poland which became a symbol of genocide, annually receives 750,000 visitors (Yuill, 2003) coming close to the annual 900,000 visitors to Dachau (Lippard, 1999).

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All these sites and many more which are similar, are what are called sites for “dark” tourism (Lennon and Foley, 2000), also known as Thanatourism (Seaton, 1996 – cited in Ryan et al, 2005) and ‘Black Spots’ (Rojek, 1997). This form of tourism is what Seaton (1999) defines as sites and attractions that are associated with deaths, acts of violence, scenes of death and crimes against humanity.

With the popularity of this form of tourism growing within the ‘horror tourism’ market (Tunbridge and Ashworth, 1996), the ethical issues surrounding it will need to be questioned. With the consumers and providers taking part in this growth of dark tourism, both their potentially contrasting ethical views towards dark tourism may be different. Whereas a providers’ means of preserving history is to charge people to maintain its upkeep, the consumers may see it as money making scheme in the expense of the deceased lives of the site. Whereas the providers’ means of letting people know its history is through interpretation of vulgar images, may seem unethically distasteful for consumers. Therefore, using Stone (2006)’s ‘shades’ of darkness spectrum as a tool for measuring different levels of dark tourism sites, these two main issues will be critically examined in depth, and in both the consumers’ and providers’ point of views to further understand the ethical dilemma of dark tourism.

Dark tourism has often raised ethical debates about the ways in which leisure and pleasure are mixed with tragedy (Kempa and Strange, 2003), as many people think some sites for dark tourism is too sensitive to present it for the world to see. However, although this may be the case, it actually varies depending on the ‘shade’ the site is supplying. This has been supported by Stone (2006) in which he believes that not all dark tourism sites and its supplies have the same degree of darkness and ethics. Stone (2006) believes that each site and what it supplies has its own degree of darkness, and depending on its criteria; it can be placed on what he refers as a ‘darkest-lightest’ spectrum.

On one side of the spectrum is what he termed ‘lightest’ side of dark tourism. Sites belonging to this side of the spectrum tend to be fully commercial providers such as the London Dungeon, which Stone (2006) also term ‘Dark Fun Factories’, as its main aim may be more financial than educational. Stone (2006) further explains that although sites belonging to this side of the scale will be associated with death and suffering, it is not OF death and suffering. Therefore, sites at this lightest side will most likely be purposeful and entertainment based, with a lower degree of ethics surrounding it.

However, on the other end of the spectrum are the ‘darkest’ side of the spectrum, in which its criteria’s are completely the opposite of those on the ‘lighter’ side. Stone (2006) explains that sites on the darkest side will be sites of death and suffering and its orientation will be to educate. Examples of these darker sites are which Wight (2005) class as ‘primary’ sites, such as holocaust camps to sites of celebrity deaths, as sites on this side of the scale will be seen as authentic and non-purposeful, leading to a higher degree of ethical issues surrounding the sites at this side of the scale.

One of these ethical issues is the notion of whether consumers should be charged to enter a site of death and with so much history. In novices’ and consumers’ eyes, it could be seen as unethical as they may see it as a means for providers to make profits in the expense of the deceased lives and history. Although this may be the case on sites within the lighter shade of the spectrum as it may be purely commercial, it is not always the case within the darker sites. Sites from the darker shade such as Auschwitz, the Gallipoli Anzac (Slade, 2003) and Robben Island prison (Shackley, 2001) are normally sites which are old and need continuous up keeping and staff. With this continuous maintenance, sites will need money to be able to continue to run its site and its historical contents. However, this also leads to the issue of how much. If a site charges just enough to afford the upkeep, then it may seem fair and ethical to do so. For example, according to Shackley (2001), the prison in Robben Island which Dann (1998) elaborates as a ‘Dungeon of Death’ attraction, employs local people as tour guides, and their average weekly wage is £10, which is the same amount as the entrance fees. However, if the entrance fees were to double, it will then be seen as profit making, thus, unethical as it is money making in expense of the past.

By charging its consumers, it may also be a means of controlling how many consumers enter the site, as mass consumption of the site may lead to deliberate sanctification and loss of original identity of the site. Strange and Kempa (2003) agrees with this and further states that the commodification of history for mass consumption frequently leads to the trivialization of the site, and in turn causes deliberate sanctification of its history, as well as the loss of original purpose of why the site was built.

An example of this happening is shown in the site of Machu Picchu. Johnston (2006) explains how ever since Machu Picchu was named a World Heritage Site in 1983, over 500,000 visitors started visiting the site every year, and to prevent deliberate sanctification, an entrance fee of $20 was put up. This in turn not only did not limit the number of foreign consumers from visiting, but also pushed the local people out of its own heritage site as they could not afford the entrance fees. Johnston (2006) continues to explain that this has contributed to the mass replacement of indigenous people with tourists around the site, causing sanctification and trivialisation of the site, as the original culture of Machu Picchu was gone.

Despite all the motives that the providers have for charging its consumers, its clearly shown that it needs to be managed efficiently in order for it to work.

Consumers who are consuming the product as experience and integration (Ryan et al, 2005) may agree with the notion of charging as it may feel like they are giving back to the deceased lives and the history of the site. Lippard (1999) explains this as ‘guilt – tripping’ in which consumers of this typologies may feel guilty of what happened in the past and may want to contribute towards the history in order to feed their conscience. Consumers consuming as experience and integration (Ryan et al, 2005) may be more sentimental than consumers that are consuming as play (Ryan et al, 2005), as the typology of play consumers will come from a Psychocentric (Novelli et al, 2005) background in which they may visit frequently to lighter shades of dark tourism sites but rarely to sites of a darker shade. Elaborating from this, it could be possible that consumers consuming as play may not be used to the dark history of the sites and may be shocked of its contents and backgrounds surrounding the darker sites, thus, may welcome the sanctification of the sites but not the notion of charging. Frequent happenings of this emotion tend to happen in what Ryan et al (2005) called Grey tourism supply, in which Ryan et al (2005) explains this theory as consumers with low, or no interest and knowledge in death and tragedy visits an intended dark tourism site. In this situation, a consumer may not be aware of the dark historical contents of the site as they would not have previous knowledge due to its lack of interest, but upon arriving to the intended site and knowing its gore details, they may instantly be repulsed and shocked.

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However, this is rare as Seaton (1999) believes that dark tourism is consumer demand rather than attraction demand, explaining that if it was not from the high interests and demand from the audience, there will not be the dark sector of tourism.

To some extent, Seaton (1999) may be correct and that the main reason for the existence of dark tourism could be from the high demands for dark tourism. However, for this to happen, the presentation of the sites may also be blamed for the high popularity of dark tourism. This is because Walter et al (1995) explains that even when consumers are interested in death and tragedies, for tragedies to be given a real meaning, it needs to have a context by explanation, and sometimes through the personal stories of those people who has been caught up in it. This has been previously mentioned using an example from one of the darker sites of Robben Island. Shackley (2001) states that the prison site in Robben Island located in South Africa, employs ex prisoners that used to be held there. These ex prisoners are now acting as tour guides for its consumers, repeatedly telling each group of consumers their own personal experience of when they were held in the cells. Shackley (2001) continues to explain that the emotional welfare of the guides had not been considered and many of the guides felt obliged to continue with its employment due to lack of employment elsewhere. Although Walter et al (1995) did explain that consumers are interested in personal story telling, but ethically, should stories as sensitive as this be told repeatedly and personally from the own mouths of the ex prisoners? This may not only be ethically wrong, but also morally wrong. Blom (2000) agrees with this and states that interpretation as personal as this should be interpreted though technology such as information points within the sites. However, despite this, providers within the darker sites may not see it in the same way. Providers could argue that employees such as ex prisoners are getting paid and that they decide to be employed in this job role voluntarily. Providers could also argue that story telling from the mouths of people who have been caught up within the history of the sites are more reliable and feasible than technology. This may be because stories that will be told from someone who has actually experienced and been there, may infact reduce the exaggeration of the contents of the history and stories, as well as being less biased than if technology was to tell it. By interpreting using technology, there could be a high chance that the information recorded into the technology is from someone with no relations to the site, thus, gives consumers wrong information. Also, this method of tour guides for interpretation may actually further benefit both the providers and consumers, as if the consumers had to ask a question about the site and its history, it can be answered immediately by the tour guides, delaying the time in which the consumers may form its own answers and judgements about the site.

The views of the darker site providers in employing tour guides may also be the same for the views for providers of the lighter shade of dark tourism, as it may be required and expected by consumers to have someone to guide through the lighter sites, e.g. the fun factories (Stone, 2006). However, an implication that can arise from this is that within the lighter shade of dark tourism, the tour guides may exaggerate the actual history and stories behind the site in order to manipulate the consumers’ attention and encourage repeat business.

Manipulation of consumers’ attention can also be done by the movement of original objects. For lighter shades of tourism sites to do this may be accepted, as previously mentioned before; Stone (2006) explains that sites of a lighter shade tend to promote any materials in order to attract business, thus, attracting profits. However, if a site of a darker shade decides to do this, the circumstances will change and it will become unethically wrong. For example, Wight (2005) states that in Auschwitz, the famous signage that read ‘Work will set you free’ was moved from its original position to a location near the end of the tour to create a high point for consumers to reach a controversial conclusion to the experience. This can be a form of manipulation as Carnegie (2006) states that some sites do intentionally move objects in order to interpret the displays to contain central, recognisable, emotional and generic truths to the local audiences. This raises an ethical dilemma, as although providers may see nothing wrong with this as controversial conclusion may leave its consumers feeling the pain and tragedies of the past, but the ethics of this makes it unfair and unauthentic for its consumers. The main purpose in why consumers visit places of dark tourism in the first place is because they may want to experience the real truth behind the sites first hand, and thus travelled to the site to get this experience. However, when providers moves objects around to help stimulate consumers’ minds, it is made unreal as it is not how the history says it was, but how the providers want it to be. By moving objects, bits of history gets moved as well, and as time moves on and nobody moves it back to its original place, the origin and bits of history of it are forgotten, hence the deliberate sanctification of some sites and the movement of sites within the shade spectrum.

The phenomenon of dark tourism is a difficult and delicate field to understand, but one aspect of it that is most understood is that it is increasingly growing in popularity, with thousands of consumers flocking worldwide to see these sites of tragedy. However, the ethics of visiting sensitive sites such as these are also growing, as questions such as whether to show or not to show, and whether to charge or not to charge are often questioned in both the providers and consumers point of views.

To show these sites of tragedies may cause exploitation of local people as well as deliberate sanctification of the sites and its history, but to not to show, our history may be denied to us.

By understanding the ethicalities of dark tourism, it will help in preserving its history and sites, so that it can then be better managed and better preserved and presented for the future. This in turn reduces the risk of exploitation of the sites and the way different typologies of consumers think. However, ethical issues do not stop at the grounds of the consumers and its providers, the sensitivity of the tour guides are also needed to be explored. As discussed previously, tour guides such as ex prisoners are sometimes obliged to relive their experience repeatedly in order for consumers to know the history. Although this may be one of the effective methods of telling history, it is important to consider the welfare of these tour guides, as the repetitive telling of their own experience may in turn contribute to further unethical dilemmas.

Therefore, maybe to finally conclude on the ethics of dark tourism, it may be possible to state that ethical issues will always continue to exist around dark tourism, as long dark tourism itself exists too. However, the importance of the consideration of the ethicalities of dark tourism cannot be understated, and both consumers and providers may want to work together, if in the future, we still would like to know about our history through the form of tourism instead through textbooks and education.

The Anne Frank Organisation (2006) states that in 2004, 936,000 visitors visited the house that used to be Anne Frank’s, a Jewish girl who among other Jews were murdered in the time of Hitler’s fascism. Among this timeframe, Auschwitz, a concentration camp based in Poland which became a symbol of genocide, annually receives 750,000 visitors (Yuill, 2003) coming close to the annual 900,000 visitors to Dachau (Lippard, 1999).

All these sites and many more which are similar, are what are called sites for “dark” tourism (Lennon and Foley, 2000), also known as Thanatourism (Seaton, 1996 – cited in Ryan et al, 2005) and ‘Black Spots’ (Rojek, 1997). This form of tourism is what Seaton (1999) defines as sites and attractions that are associated with deaths, acts of violence, scenes of death and crimes against humanity.

With the popularity of this form of tourism growing within the ‘horror tourism’ market (Tunbridge and Ashworth, 1996), the ethical issues surrounding it will need to be questioned. With the consumers and providers taking part in this growth of dark tourism, both their potentially contrasting ethical views towards dark tourism may be different. Whereas a providers’ means of preserving history is to charge people to maintain its upkeep, the consumers may see it as money making scheme in the expense of the deceased lives of the site. Whereas the providers’ means of letting people know its history is through interpretation of vulgar images, may seem unethically distasteful for consumers. Therefore, using Stone (2006)’s ‘shades’ of darkness spectrum as a tool for measuring different levels of dark tourism sites, these two main issues will be critically examined in depth, and in both the consumers’ and providers’ point of views to further understand the ethical dilemma of dark tourism.

Dark tourism has often raised ethical debates about the ways in which leisure and pleasure are mixed with tragedy (Kempa and Strange, 2003), as many people think some sites for dark tourism is too sensitive to present it for the world to see. However, although this may be the case, it actually varies depending on the ‘shade’ the site is supplying. This has been supported by Stone (2006) in which he believes that not all dark tourism sites and its supplies have the same degree of darkness and ethics. Stone (2006) believes that each site and what it supplies has its own degree of darkness, and depending on its criteria; it can be placed on what he refers as a ‘darkest-lightest’ spectrum.

On one side of the spectrum is what he termed ‘lightest’ side of dark tourism. Sites belonging to this side of the spectrum tend to be fully commercial providers such as the London Dungeon, which Stone (2006) also term ‘Dark Fun Factories’, as its main aim may be more financial than educational. Stone (2006) further explains that although sites belonging to this side of the scale will be associated with death and suffering, it is not OF death and suffering. Therefore, sites at this lightest side will most likely be purposeful and entertainment based, with a lower degree of ethics surrounding it.

However, on the other end of the spectrum are the ‘darkest’ side of the spectrum, in which its criteria’s are completely the opposite of those on the ‘lighter’ side. Stone (2006) explains that sites on the darkest side will be sites of death and suffering and its orientation will be to educate. Examples of these darker sites are which Wight (2005) class as ‘primary’ sites, such as holocaust camps to sites of celebrity deaths, as sites on this side of the scale will be seen as authentic and non-purposeful, leading to a higher degree of ethical issues surrounding the sites at this side of the scale.

One of these ethical issues is the notion of whether consumers should be charged to enter a site of death and with so much history. In novices’ and consumers’ eyes, it could be seen as unethical as they may see it as a means for providers to make profits in the expense of the deceased lives and history. Although this may be the case on sites within the lighter shade of the spectrum as it may be purely commercial, it is not always the case within the darker sites. Sites from the darker shade such as Auschwitz, the Gallipoli Anzac (Slade, 2003) and Robben Island prison (Shackley, 2001) are normally sites which are old and need continuous up keeping and staff. With this continuous maintenance, sites will need money to be able to continue to run its site and its historical contents. However, this also leads to the issue of how much. If a site charges just enough to afford the upkeep, then it may seem fair and ethical to do so. For example, according to Shackley (2001), the prison in Robben Island which Dann (1998) elaborates as a ‘Dungeon of Death’ attraction, employs local people as tour guides, and their average weekly wage is £10, which is the same amount as the entrance fees. However, if the entrance fees were to double, it will then be seen as profit making, thus, unethical as it is money making in expense of the past.

By charging its consumers, it may also be a means of controlling how many consumers enter the site, as mass consumption of the site may lead to deliberate sanctification and loss of original identity of the site. Strange and Kempa (2003) agrees with this and further states that the commodification of history for mass consumption frequently leads to the trivialization of the site, and in turn causes deliberate sanctification of its history, as well as the loss of original purpose of why the site was built.

An example of this happening is shown in the site of Machu Picchu. Johnston (2006) explains how ever since Machu Picchu was named a World Heritage Site in 1983, over 500,000 visitors started visiting the site every year, and to prevent deliberate sanctification, an entrance fee of $20 was put up. This in turn not only did not limit the number of foreign consumers from visiting, but also pushed the local people out of its own heritage site as they could not afford the entrance fees. Johnston (2006) continues to explain that this has contributed to the mass replacement of indigenous people with tourists around the site, causing sanctification and trivialisation of the site, as the original culture of Machu Picchu was gone.

Despite all the motives that the providers have for charging its consumers, its clearly shown that it needs to be managed efficiently in order for it to work.

Consumers who are consuming the product as experience and integration (Ryan et al, 2005) may agree with the notion of charging as it may feel like they are giving back to the deceased lives and the history of the site. Lippard (1999) explains this as ‘guilt – tripping’ in which consumers of this typologies may feel guilty of what happened in the past and may want to contribute towards the history in order to feed their conscience. Consumers consuming as experience and integration (Ryan et al, 2005) may be more sentimental than consumers that are consuming as play (Ryan et al, 2005), as the typology of play consumers will come from a Psychocentric (Novelli et al, 2005) background in which they may visit frequently to lighter shades of dark tourism sites but rarely to sites of a darker shade. Elaborating from this, it could be possible that consumers consuming as play may not be used to the dark history of the sites and may be shocked of its contents and backgrounds surrounding the darker sites, thus, may welcome the sanctification of the sites but not the notion of charging. Frequent happenings of this emotion tend to happen in what Ryan et al (2005) called Grey tourism supply, in which Ryan et al (2005) explains this theory as consumers with low, or no interest and knowledge in death and tragedy visits an intended dark tourism site. In this situation, a consumer may not be aware of the dark historical contents of the site as they would not have previous knowledge due to its lack of interest, but upon arriving to the intended site and knowing its gore details, they may instantly be repulsed and shocked.

However, this is rare as Seaton (1999) believes that dark tourism is consumer demand rather than attraction demand, explaining that if it was not from the high interests and demand from the audience, there will not be the dark sector of tourism.

To some extent, Seaton (1999) may be correct and that the main reason for the existence of dark tourism could be from the high demands for dark tourism. However, for this to happen, the presentation of the sites may also be blamed for the high popularity of dark tourism. This is because Walter et al (1995) explains that even when consumers are interested in death and tragedies, for tragedies to be given a real meaning, it needs to have a context by explanation, and sometimes through the personal stories of those people who has been caught up in it. This has been previously mentioned using an example from one of the darker sites of Robben Island. Shackley (2001) states that the prison site in Robben Island located in South Africa, employs ex prisoners that used to be held there. These ex prisoners are now acting as tour guides for its consumers, repeatedly telling each group of consumers their own personal experience of when they were held in the cells. Shackley (2001) continues to explain that the emotional welfare of the guides had not been considered and many of the guides felt obliged to continue with its employment due to lack of employment elsewhere. Although Walter et al (1995) did explain that consumers are interested in personal story telling, but ethically, should stories as sensitive as this be told repeatedly and personally from the own mouths of the ex prisoners? This may not only be ethically wrong, but also morally wrong. Blom (2000) agrees with this and states that interpretation as personal as this should be interpreted though technology such as information points within the sites. However, despite this, providers within the darker sites may not see it in the same way. Providers could argue that employees such as ex prisoners are getting paid and that they decide to be employed in this job role voluntarily. Providers could also argue that story telling from the mouths of people who have been caught up within the history of the sites are more reliable and feasible than technology. This may be because stories that will be told from someone who has actually experienced and been there, may infact reduce the exaggeration of the contents of the history and stories, as well as being less biased than if technology was to tell it. By interpreting using technology, there could be a high chance that the information recorded into the technology is from someone with no relations to the site, thus, gives consumers wrong information. Also, this method of tour guides for interpretation may actually further benefit both the providers and consumers, as if the consumers had to ask a question about the site and its history, it can be answered immediately by the tour guides, delaying the time in which the consumers may form its own answers and judgements about the site.

The views of the darker site providers in employing tour guides may also be the same for the views for providers of the lighter shade of dark tourism, as it may be required and expected by consumers to have someone to guide through the lighter sites, e.g. the fun factories (Stone, 2006). However, an implication that can arise from this is that within the lighter shade of dark tourism, the tour guides may exaggerate the actual history and stories behind the site in order to manipulate the consumers’ attention and encourage repeat business.

Manipulation of consumers’ attention can also be done by the movement of original objects. For lighter shades of tourism sites to do this may be accepted, as previously mentioned before; Stone (2006) explains that sites of a lighter shade tend to promote any materials in order to attract business, thus, attracting profits. However, if a site of a darker shade decides to do this, the circumstances will change and it will become unethically wrong. For example, Wight (2005) states that in Auschwitz, the famous signage that read ‘Work will set you free’ was moved from its original position to a location near the end of the tour to create a high point for consumers to reach a controversial conclusion to the experience. This can be a form of manipulation as Carnegie (2006) states that some sites do intentionally move objects in order to interpret the displays to contain central, recognisable, emotional and generic truths to the local audiences. This raises an ethical dilemma, as although providers may see nothing wrong with this as controversial conclusion may leave its consumers feeling the pain and tragedies of the past, but the ethics of this makes it unfair and unauthentic for its consumers. The main purpose in why consumers visit places of dark tourism in the first place is because they may want to experience the real truth behind the sites first hand, and thus travelled to the site to get this experience. However, when providers moves objects around to help stimulate consumers’ minds, it is made unreal as it is not how the history says it was, but how the providers want it to be. By moving objects, bits of history gets moved as well, and as time moves on and nobody moves it back to its original place, the origin and bits of history of it are forgotten, hence the deliberate sanctification of some sites and the movement of sites within the shade spectrum.

The phenomenon of dark tourism is a difficult and delicate field to understand, but one aspect of it that is most understood is that it is increasingly growing in popularity, with thousands of consumers flocking worldwide to see these sites of tragedy. However, the ethics of visiting sensitive sites such as these are also growing, as questions such as whether to show or not to show, and whether to charge or not to charge are often questioned in both the providers and consumers point of views.

To show these sites of tragedies may cause exploitation of local people as well as deliberate sanctification of the sites and its history, but to not to show, our history may be denied to us.

By understanding the ethicalities of dark tourism, it will help in preserving its history and sites, so that it can then be better managed and better preserved and presented for the future. This in turn reduces the risk of exploitation of the sites and the way different typologies of consumers think. However, ethical issues do not stop at the grounds of the consumers and its providers, the sensitivity of the tour guides are also needed to be explored. As discussed previously, tour guides such as ex prisoners are sometimes obliged to relive their experience repeatedly in order for consumers to know the history. Although this may be one of the effective methods of telling history, it is important to consider the welfare of these tour guides, as the repetitive telling of their own experience may in turn contribute to further unethical dilemmas.

Therefore, maybe to finally conclude on the ethics of dark tourism, it may be possible to state that ethical issues will always continue to exist around dark tourism, as long dark tourism itself exists too. However, the importance of the consideration of the ethicalities of dark tourism cannot be understated, and both consumers and providers may want to work together, if in the future, we still would like to know about our history through the form of tourism instead through textbooks and education.

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