Dark tourism is a global, multi-million industry. It is usually rooted in a specific place where incidents of tragedy, war, incarceration, disasters, death and the macabre have occurred.
Dark tourism can be something of a haunting presence impacting significant aspects like place identity, public facilities, citizen privacy, the truth and more. For some communities, dark tourism may feel like exploitation or ripping open a wound – and it is due to these sensitivities that it can’t be treated as just another tourist destination. In turn, local government has to deal directly with all these layers of complexity and understandably, this can be uncomfortable, difficult and confusing, but still important.
Check out our Global Local: Dark Tourism with a range of additional resources.
Why research it?
Despite the critical and universal relationship between dark tourism and local government, it seems to go broadly unacknowledged and unexplored in academia and in the sector.
The reality of dark tourism is it can be difficult (even impossible) to escape the association of a local tragedy regardless of whether local government and their communities choose to engage or not. Equally, the spontaneous nature of dark tourism accompanied by the age of internet-driven mass attention means all communities are susceptible – if they’re not already dealing with dark tourism. Yet, there is not much practical guidance available for local government in terms of preparedness strategies or best approaches.
This is why we’re seeking to better understand the complex industry of dark tourism and its relationship with local government. We want LGIU members and readers to help us. Your input in our poll below can shape the direction of our research in partnership with academics at Minnesota State University.
Poll options explained: vote below
1. Community sentiment toward local government involvement in dark tourism
Local government involvement in dark tourism requires community support. However, this support can be controversial as citizens may not be comfortable with the idea of a major revenue stream coming from a tragedy. That said, it’s not simply black or white as the attention does not disappear just from a lack of engagement and revenue from dark tourism can be reinvested into infrastructure and local government services. This study would ask citizens in dark tourism hotspots about their experiences and their sentiments towards living in a location associated with ‘darkness’ with the aim of providing feedback for local governments on the best community engagement approaches for walking this fine line.
2. Local government acquisition of dark tourism sites
After a tragedy, whether the next day or several years along, the site of a tragedy may come up for sale. If the site is a magnet for dark tourism, the local government will need to consider the pros and cons of purchasing the site to retain management and control. Purchase of the site means they can provide a historical context not dependent on the market or ‘what sells’, unlike potential private owners. However, not purchasing the site may be the financially prudent route. This study would examine the pros and cons of dark tourism site purchases based on case study examples.
3. Comparative economics between local governments which embrace or ignore dark tourism
This study would investigate the economic impacts on a local government if a community embraces dark tourism vs. if they refuse to acknowledge it. It would compare communities with similar types of dark tourism destinations that have differing approaches, i.e. embracing the tourism vs. refusing to acknowledge it, to determine whether the community’s embrace, or lack of, has a positive, negative, or neutral impact on their economy.
If you have additional ideas about local government’s involvement in dark tourism or have your own case study you would be interested in sharing, please contact us or comment below.