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Visitor Motivations Driving Dark Tourism

While there has been an apparent increasing interest in dark tourism in contemporary society (Lennon and Foley 2000; Winkel 2001), criticisms have been targeted against it. These criticisms, however, fail to take into consideration the important meaning behind dark tourism. By visiting dark destinations, visitors have the opportunity to explore the dark side of the world’s past, memorialize victims, and learn something from the mistakes of their ancestors. The reasons behind visiting these death places are diverse, as can be seen in Table 11.1, which provides a summary of the motivations driving dark tourism.

Table 11.1 Some motivations of dark tourism


Motivations of dark tourism

Dann (1998)

Desire to celebration of deviance and violent, overcome phantom, nostalgia, search for novelty, bloodlust, interest in challenging someone’s sense

Ashworth (1998)

Self-realization and self-identity

Ashworth (2002)

Entertainment by the suffering of someone and the horrific occurrences, satisfying curiosity, empathic identification, seeking self-understanding

Seaton and Lennon (2004)

The entertainment to watch others’ catastrophe and the contemplation of other’ s death.

Keil (2005)

Honor to deaths, memory and learn something about the past

Krakover (2005)

Horror, fear, sadness, empathy, depression, sympathy, and feelings of vengeance

Ashworth and Hartmann (2005)

Pilgrimage, pursuing knowledge, and social responsibility

Stone (2006)

Pursuing memorization, knowledge, humanitarian, military or science interests

Ryan (2007), Dunkley (2007)

Risk seeking, special interest, validation, self-identify, authenticity, traveling iconic sites, morbid curiosity, convenience, and contemplation

Stone (2009)


Dunkley et al. (2011)

Special interests, remembrance, and pilgrimage

Mowatt and Chancellor (2011)

Historical meaning

Biran et al. (2011)

Understanding and learning, and emotional and contemplation experience

Dark tourism offers an emotional and educational tourism experience (Henderson 2000). The educational and emotional aspects of the dark tourism experience are affected by various factors, such as the authenticity of the destination, the varied interpretations of the destination, and media coverage. The interpretation of dark destinations has a significant role in dark tourism experiences and is the primary means by which information about the dark destination is communicated to its visitors (Ballantyne 2003; Wight and Lennon 2007; Moscardo and Ballantyne 2008). Selective interpretations have been used in destinations associated with political and war conflicts and these interpretations can be identified as “the process of creating multiple constructions of the past, whereby history is never an objective recall of the past” (Wight and Lennon 2007: 527).

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