Dark tourism: motivations and visit intentions of tourists

International Hospitality Review

ISSN : 2516-8142

Article publication date: 8 July 2021

Issue publication date: 14 June 2022

The overall purpose of this study is to utilize the Theory of Planned Behavior (TPB) in combination with four dark tourism constructs (dark experience, engaging entertainment, unique learning experience, and casual interest) to gain a better understanding of behaviors and intentions of tourists who have visited or plan to visit a dark tourism location.

Design/methodology/approach

A total of 1,068 useable questionnaires was collected via Qualtrics Panels for analysis purposes. Confirmatory Factor Analysis (CFA) was used to verify satisfactory reliability and validity regarding the measurement of model fit. With adequate model fit, structural equation modeling was employed to determine positive and negative relationships between TPB and dark tourism constructs. In all, 11 hypotheses statements were tested within this study.

Results of this study indicate that tourists are curious, interested, and intrigued by dark experiences with paranormal activity, resulting in travel choices made for themselves based on personal beliefs and preferences, with minimal outside influence from others. It was determined that dark experience was the most influential of the dark tourism constructs tested in relationship to attitudes and subjective norm.

Research limitations/implications

The data collected for this study were collected using Qualtrics Panels with self-reporting participants. The actual destination visited by survey participants was also not factored into the results of this research study.

Originality/value

This study provides a new theoretical research model that merges TPB and dark tourism constructs and established that there is a relationship between TPB constructs and dark tourism.

Dark tourism

  • Thanatourism
  • Motivations
  • Theory of planned behaviour

Lewis, H. , Schrier, T. and Xu, S. (2022), "Dark tourism: motivations and visit intentions of tourists", International Hospitality Review , Vol. 36 No. 1, pp. 107-123. https://doi.org/10.1108/IHR-01-2021-0004

Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2021, Heather Lewis, Thomas Schrier and Shuangyu Xu

Published in International Hospitality Review . Published by Emerald Publishing Limited. This article is published under the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY 4.0) licence. Anyone may reproduce, distribute, translate and create derivative works of this article (for both commercial and non-commercial purposes), subject to full attribution to the original publication and authors. The full terms of this licence may be seen at http://creativecommons.org/licences/by/4.0/legalcode

Introduction

Dark tourism is defined as the act of tourists traveling to sites of death, tragedy, and suffering ( Foley and Lennon, 1996 ). This past decade marks a significant growth of dark tourism with increasing number of dark tourists ( Lennon and Foley, 2000 ; Martini and Buda, 2018 ). More than 2.1 million tourists visited Auschwitz Memorial in 2018 (visitor numbers, 2019), and 3.2 million tourists visited the Ground Zero 9/11 Memorial annually (a year in review, 2017). Despite of the increasing popularity, there is still limited understanding of dark tourism as a multi-faceted phenomenon ( Biran et al. , 2011 ) . Some research has looked into the motivations and experience of dark tourists ( Poria et al. , 2004 ; Poria et al. , 2006 ). However, most were based on conceptual frameworks and arguments with little empirical data, even less have examined tourist visit intentions to dark tourism sites ( Zhang et al. , 2016 ), let alone the association between dark tourists' motivations and visit intentions. Many scholars suggested the pressing needs for empirical research into dark tourism from tourist perspectives to understand their motivations and experiences ( Seaton and Lennon, 2004 ; Sharpley and Stone, 2009 ; Zhang et al. , 2016 ). Of the limited empirical dark tourism studies, most were case studies with historical battlefields and concentration camps being the hot spots ( Le and Pearce, 2011 ; Lennon and Foley, 1999 ; Miles, 2002 ). Still, a comprehensive understanding of dark tourists' motivations and their intentions to visit is lacking.

As such, this study was conducted to understand both the motivations and visit intentions of tourists to dark tourism destinations. Theory of Planned Behavior (TPB) constructs ( attitudes, subjective norm, perceived behavioral control) and the four dark tourism dimensions (i.e. dark experience, engaging entertainment, unique learning experience, and casual interest ) were utilized to address the following objectives: (1) examine the motivations of dark tourists; (2) investigate the intentions of the dark tourists to visit a dark tourism destination in the next 12 months; and (3) explore the association between the motivations and visit intentions of dark tourists. The dark tourism dimensions utilized for this study were adapted supported by previous dark tourism studies ( Biran et al. , 2014 ; Bissell, 2009 ; Lam and Hsu, 2006 ; Molle and Bader, 2014 ). While many studies have utilized TPB in the past, this study will utilize the TPB to focus attention on why travelers are motivated to visit dark tourism locations specifically.

Literature review

Travels associated with death dates back for centuries ( Dale and Robinson, 2011 ). Early examples of dark tourism include Roman gladiator games, guided tours to watch hangings in England, and pilgrimages to medieval executions ( Stone, 2006 ). Even today, many tourists are fascinated with and thus visited sites of death and tragedy such as the John F. Kennedy's death site in Dallas, Texas, and the Ground Zero 9/11 Memorial in New York ( Foley and Lennon, 1996 ; Strange and Kempa, 2003 ). Abandoned prisons and sites of punishment and incarcerations are also popular attractions among dark tourists (e.g., Pentridge in Melbourne, Australia; Foley and Lennon, 1996 ). However, the term dark tourism did not get introduced to the research community until 1996 which ignited many later research efforts on this topic ( Light, 2017 ).

Dark tourism is defined as the act of tourists traveling to sites of death, tragedy, and suffering ( Foley and Lennon, 1996 ). Many scholars also came up with other terms and labels to describe such phenomenon including thanatourism ( Seaton, 1996 ), disaster tourism ( Rojek, 1993 ), black spot tourism ( Rojek, 1993 ), morbid tourism ( Blom, 2000 ) and even phoenix tourism ( Powell et al. , 2018 ). Mowatt and Chancellor (2011) suggested that despite of different names, at the heart of the concept is travel to places of death that are often linked to violence ( Robb, 2009 ). Many researchers use the term dark tourism and thanatourism interchangeably, while more tend to use dark tourism as an umbrella term for any form of tourism that is somehow related to death, suffering, atrocity, tragedy or crime ( Light, 2017 ). Given the standard use of the term dark tourism in the practice and scholarship of tourism, such a term will be used throughout this manuscript.

Dark tourism research in this past two decades mainly covers six themes including the discussion on definition, concepts, and typologies; the associated ethical issues; the political and ideological dimensions; the nature of demand for dark tourism locations; site management; and the methods used for research ( Light, 2017 ). The area of terminology and definitions undoubtedly dominates in the dark tourism literature ( Zhang et al. , 2016 ). While in the area of exploring the nature of demand for dark tourism locations, the relatively limited research concentrated in four aspects – both the motivations and experiences of dark tourists, the relationship between visiting and sense of identity, and new approaches to theorizing the consumption of dark tourism ( Light, 2017 ).

Research addressing dark tourists' motivations were relatively slow. Many early studies simply postulate and propose tourists' motivations to visit dark tourism sites, with a lack of empirical research to support ( Light, 2017 ). As such, many studies in the past decade examined dark tourists' motivations through different case studies, with concentration camps or historical battlefields being the hot spots ( Lennon and Foley, 1999 ; Miles, 2002 ). Research reveals that tourists visit dark tourism destinations for a wide variety of reasons, such as curiosity ( Biran et al. , 2014 ; Isaac and Cakmak, 2014 ), desire for education and learning about what happened at the site ( Kamber et al. , 2016 ; Yan et al. , 2016 ), interest in history or death ( Yankholmes and McKercher, 2015 ; Raine, 2013 ), connecting with one's personal or family heritage ( Mowatt and Chancellor, 2011 ; Le and Pearce, 2011 ). Drawing from literature, four common themes (i.e. dark experience, engaging entertainment, unique learning experience, casual interest) emerged, served as the foundational pillars for this study, and were discussed below.

The motivation construct

Dark experience.

Raine's (2013) dark tourist spectrum study of tourists visiting burial grounds and graveyards concluded that mourners and pilgrims had personal and spiritual connections to the different sites being studied. Mourners visited specific gravesites and usually would perform meditations for the dead. Pilgrims had a personal connection to specific burial sites in some way, whether it is a religious connection to the individual or they served as a personal hero ( Raine, 2013 ). Death rites are often performed as a ritual not necessarily to mark the passing of the deceased but rather to heal the wounds of families, communities, societies, and/or nations by the deceased's passing ( Bowman and Pezzullo, 2009 ).

Additionally, Raine's (2013) study discovered another subset of tourists—the morbidly curious and thrill seekers. Those classified as morbidly curious or thrill seekers were visiting burial sites to confront and experience death. Whether a mourner or pilgrim or the morbidly curious thrill seeker, the tourists had a strong connection to the dead they were there to visit which could categorize them as seeking a dark experience.

To take dark tourism to the extreme, Miller and Gonzalez (2013) completed a study on death tourism. Death tourism occurs when individuals travel to a location to end their lives, often through a means of assisted medical suicide. It was determined that this is still a taboo topic for some countries where it is not legalized, however it is gaining more publicity. It was determined that death tourism is typically the result of one of four reasons; the primary reason death tourism is planned is because of assisted suicide being illegal in the traveler's home country ( Miller and Gonzalez, 2013 ). While death tourism does not directly apply to this particular study, it is an offspring of dark tourism and is a tourist activity that is related to dark experience.

Dark Experience will have a positive relationship with Attitudes

Dark Experience will have a positive relationship with Subjective Norm

Engaging Entertainment

Engaging Entertainment will have a positive relationship with Attitudes

Engaging Entertainment will have a positive relationship with Subjective Norm

Unique learning experience

Unique Learning Experience will have a positive relationship with Attitudes

Unique Learning Experience will have a positive relationship with Subjective Norm

Casual interest

Casual Interest will have a positive relationship with Attitudes

Casual Interest will have a positive relationship with Subjective Norm

The Theory of Planned Behavior (TPB)

Behavioral intention, defined as an individual's anticipated or planned future behavior ( Swan, 1981 ), has been suggested as a central factor that correlates strongly with observed behavior ( Baloglu, 2000 ). Many believed that intentions serve as an immediate antecedent to actual behavior ( Fishbein and Ajzen, 1975 ; Konu and Laukkanen, 2010 ). Fishbein and Ajzen developed the Theory of planned behavior (TPB) base on three constructs: attitude, subjective norm and perceived behavioral control. The Theory of Planned Behavior (TPB) has been widely used in tourism research ( Ajzen and Driver, 1992 ; Han et al. , 2010 ; Han and Kim, 2010 ; Lam and Hsu, 2004 , 2006 ). TPB suggests that individuals are more likely to engage in behaviors that are believed to be achievable ( Armitage and Conner, 2001 ). Ajzen (1991) suggested that attitude, subjective norm, and perceived behavioral control are important to predict intention. Perceived behavioral control is what influences the tourists' intentions and their perception of their ability to perform a specific behavior.

Lam and Hsu (2004) utilized the TPB to examine motivations of travelers from mainland China to Hong Kong and found that attitude, perceived behavioral control, and past behaviors were directly related to travel intentions. In another study examining the visit intentions of Taiwanese travelers to Hong Kong, Lam and Hsu (2006) found that a positive association between visit frequency and re-visit intention.

Cheng et al. (2006) used the TPB to examine the negative word-of-mouth communication on visit intentions of Chinese consumers to high-class Chinese restaurants. It was determined from their study that the TPB constructs were positively impacted by negative word-of-mouth indicating that the TPB effectively measured consumer communication intention. Similarly, Han and Kim (2010) modified the TPB in the investigation of customers' intention to revisit environmentally friendly hotels and found that past behavior was a significant predictor of intention–the more customers stay at a green hotel, the more likely they intend to revisit. It can be concluded from previous research efforts that the TPB can be utilized to effectively measure behavioral intentions of tourists successfully.

Motivation and intentions

Attitudes will have a positive relationship with Intention

Subjective Norm will have a negative relationship with Intention

Perceived Behavioral Control will have a positive relationship with Intention

Methodology

Survey instrument.

A survey questionnaire was developed to collect information on the socio-demographic background, motivation construct, and planned behavior construct from tourists. Socio-demographic data queried were age in years (continuous), gender (3 categories, male, female and prefer not to answer), level of education (9 categories, from less than high school degree to doctoral degree), marital status (5 categories, from single to widow/widower), personal annual income (12 categories, from less than $20,000 to more than $200,000). Tourists' home residence state and country were also collected.

A dark tourism motivation construct was developed based on previous studies ( Biran et al. , 2014 ; Bissell, 2009 ; Lam and Hsu, 2006 ; Molle and Bader, 2014 ), and used to query previous visit and potential visit separately using a five-point Likert scale (“1 = extremely unimportant”; “5 = extremely important”). This motivation construct consists of 33 item statements from four dimensions ( Table 1 ) which include engaging entertainment, dark experience , unique learning experience , and casual interest . Dark experience consisted of nine statements, related to death, fascination with abnormal and/or bizarre events and destinations, and emotional experiences with a connection to death (e.g., “to travel”, “to have some entertainment”). Engaging entertainment was measured using ten statements that inquire about the personal or emotional connection to the destination they have visited or wish to visit in the future (e.g., “to witness the act of death and dying”, “to experience paranormal activity”). Unique learning experience focused on learning about the history of the destination being visited or trying something that is different and out of the ordinary (eight items, e.g., “to try something new”, “to increase knowledge”). Casual interest focuses on individuals who want to visit a dark tourism destination for the entertainment value but want to have a relaxing time while doing so (six items, “special tour promotions”, “natural scenery”).

The planned behavior construct queried on four dimensions (i.e., attitudes , subjective norms , perceived behavioral control , and behavioral intentions ) associated with visiting dark tourism destinations, with a total of 16 item statements ( Table 2 ). Five item statements were used to measure dark tourists' attitudes (e.g., “visiting a dark tourism destination is enjoyable”, “visiting a dark tourism destination is pleasant”) and behavioral intentions (e.g., “I will visit a dark tourism destination in the next 12 months”, “I would revisit the most recent dark tourism destination I visited again in the future”) respectively, using a five-point Likert scale (“1 = Strongly disagree”; “5 = Strongly agree”). Dark tourists' perceived behavioral control was measured by three item statements (e.g., “I am in control of whether or not I visit a dark tourism destination”, “If wanted, I could easily afford to visit a dark tourism destination”), using the same five-point Likert scale (“1 = Strongly disagree”; “5 = Strongly agree”). For subjective norms dimension, each of the three item statements was measured by a different five-point Likert scale. The statement that “most people I know would choose a dark tourism destination for vacation purposes” uses the scale in which “1 = strongly disagree”, “5 = strongly agree”. One item statement asks individuals to rate on whether “people who are important to me think I ____ choose a dark tourism destination to visit” “1 = definitely should not”, “5 = definitely should”). Another statement asks individuals to rate whether “people who are important to me would ___ of my visit to a dark tourism destination” “1 = definitely disapprove”, “5 = definitely approve”).

Sampling and procedure

To increase the reliability and validity of the survey, a pilot study was conducted. A small group of industry professionals from all over the country currently working at dark tourism destinations and other academic researchers were invited to critique the initial draft of the survey. Forty-one individuals took the survey instrument and provided feedback (e.g., some wording issues). After revisions from the pilot study were completed, the survey was launched, and data was collected.

Qualtrics, a web-based survey software company with access to an electronic database of survey candidates, was used to administer this questionnaire to participants. A total of 44,270 invitations were randomly sent to Qualtrics panel participants requesting participation in this study. Qualification of participants was completed by requesting all survey recipients answer the following questions: (1) Have you visited a dark tourism location within the past 24 months? and (2) Do you plan to visit a dark tourism location within the next 12 months? A statement was provided to all participants explaining what consisted of a dark tourism location to ensure participants were not taking the survey based on experiences of activities like haunted houses or haunted hayrides. Only 3,907 individuals were eligible to complete the survey, and a total of 1,068 participants did complete the survey, which yields a response rate of 27.3%. Altogether 651 out of 1,068 individuals had previously visited a dark tourism destination within the last 24 months while the remaining 417 individuals plan to visit a dark tourism destination within the next 12 months.

Data analysis included descriptive statistics, reliability tests, confirmatory factor analysis (CFA), and structural equation modeling (SEM). Descriptive statistics were used to outline respondents' characteristics (e.g., demographic composition). CFA was utilized to evaluate the measurement model, demonstrate adequate model fit, and ensure satisfactory levels of reliability and validity of underlying variables and their respective factors. Factor loadings greater than 0.70 indicated that the constructs are appropriately represented and considered acceptable ( Hair et al. , 2010 ). Cronbach's alphas were computed to test the internal reliability of items comprising each dimension of the dark tourism motivation construct ( dark experience , engaging entertainment , unique learning experience , casual interest ) and the planned behavior construct ( attitudes , subjective norm , perceived behavioral control ), respectively. A cutoff value of 0.7 was utilized to determine “good” reliability ( Peterson, 1994 , p. 381).

To confirm measurement model validity, the chi-squared ( x 2 ) statistic, Root-Mean-Square-Error of Approximation (RMSEA), Comparative Fit Index (CFI), and the Standardized Root Mean Square Residual (SRMR) values were reviewed. Cutoff criteria used to determine “good fit” were RMSEA score < 0.08 ( Byrne, 1998 ), CFI scores > 0.90 ( Kline, 2005 ), SRMR < 0.08 to indicate a good fit ( Hu and Bentler, 1999 ).

Overwhelmingly, many tourists who had either visited a dark tourism location or plan to visit a dark tourism destination were female (65.4%). Additionally, the majority of participants were 25–34 years of age (44.2%) with the next largest age groups being 35–44 years (21%) and 18–24 years (20.9%). Most had either a 4-years Bachelor's degree from college (30.5%) or at least some college education but did not finish their degree (25.3%). 54.5% of the survey participants were married and 37.6% were single. As for income, the largest percentage (19.5%) had an individual annual income ranging from $20,001-$40,000. A full table of demographic characteristics of the participants can be seen in Table 3 .

Partial disaggregation of measurement model

SEM was utilized to investigate the relationships among dark tourism construct, the planned behavior construct and behavioral intentions. Like the CFA testing, the SEM also uses the chi-squared ( x 2 ) , RMSEA, SRMR, and CFI to determine overall model fit and relationships for this study. After further testing for convergent and discriminant validity, it was determined that all constructs met the composite reliability 0.70 or greater standard regarding the 3-parcel hypothesized model ( Table 4 ) ( Hair et al. , 2010 ).

There are several ways to parcel variables into groupings. For purposes of this study, the variables were parceled using the item-to-construct method since the SEM model was large in size and the goal was to have parcels balanced in terms of difficulty and discrimination ( Little et al. , 2002 ). To develop the parcels, standardized regression weights were evaluated, and the three highest scores served as anchors to each of the three parcels with the highest values associated to parcel 1, next highest to parcel 2, and then the next highest to parcel 3. The remainder of variables were placed into the parcels continuing with the 4th highest value placed into the 3rd parcel and repeating the process in inverted order until all variables were assigned into parcels. Once the variables for each construct were placed into appropriate parcel groupings, averages of the questions associated to the new parceled variables were calculated prior to the CFA and SEM analysis. The attitude and behavioral intention constructs had five variable questions, while subjective norm and perceived behavioral control only had three questions. In those situations, one individual variable question served as the parcel item. Table 2 shows the variables and the parcels in which they were grouped.

Additionally, the average variance extracted was calculated and proved to be less than the composite reliability for each construct indicating convergent reliability of the constructs. The average variance extracted was greater than the 0.50 standard for Dark Experience, Engaging Entertainment, Unique Learning Experience, Attitude, and Subjective Norm constructs. Behavioral Intention (0.49) and Casual Interest (0.48) had values that were borderline acceptable regarding convergent validity. The only construct that did not meet the standards of convergent validity testing was Perceived Behavioral Control (0.23). When testing for divergent validity, all square-root of average variance extracted calculations were greater than the inter-construct correlations indicating divergent validity was present in this study. Partial disaggregation of the variables resulted in a much stronger overall model fit. The RMSEA value was 0.08 indicating a strong model fit and the CFI (0.891) value was acceptable indicating a good model fit. The SRMR value (0.06, Table 4 ) also showed a strong model fit.

Hypothesis testing

Overall, most of the relationships between the dark tourism construct and the TPB constructs were significant. Results show that dark experience has a positive significant relationship with both attitudes (0.434) regarding tourists visiting a dark tourism destination and subjective norms (0.242, Table 5 ). Casual interest has a positive significant relationship with both attitudes (0.404) and subjective norm (0.330). Both engaging entertainment (−0.080; −0.217) and unique learning experience (0.152; −0.247) are not significantly associated with neither attitudes nor subjective norms . Results show that both attitudes (0.396) and perceived behavioral control (0.716) have a significant positive relationship with behavioral intention .

SEM testing was completed on the data. In addition to the significant and insignificant relationships indicated by the SEM testing, to answer some of the specific research questions asked by this study one must review the distinct question factor loadings to get those answers. A full set of the factor loadings of survey questions asked regarding dark tourism and TPB constructs are in Table 1 . A visualization of all hypothesis testing results is in Table 5 as well as on Figure 1 .

It can be concluded from the findings of this research that dark experience has a positive relationship with attitudes regarding tourists visiting a dark tourism location, indicating that Hypothesis 1 was fully supported. Tourists seek specific characteristics when choosing to visit a dark tourism destination. Akin to findings from Bissell (2009) , the reasons for visiting: I want to try something new and out of the ordinary as well as I am fascinated with abnormal and bizarre events were strong. Alone these two variables do not constitute wanting to experience dark tourism but suggest a curiosity about dark tourism and a desire for new experiences ( Seaton and Lennon, 2004 ). Individuals answered favorably to all questions related to interest in experiencing paranormal activity. Although Sharpley (2005) suggested “fascination with death” as a potential motive for tourists to visit dark tourism destinations, questions specifically related to death (i.e., to witness the act of death and dying , to satisfy personal curiosity about how the victims died ) , reveal that fascination with death and dying was not a strong motivating factor for the tourists' who participated in this research study. The positive relationships of dark experience with attitudes ( H1 ) and subjective norm ( H2 ) , respectively, implies that tourists are seeking experiences that satisfy curiosity or they are seeking interaction with the paranormal. Tourists seek a fun and enjoyable tourist experience by visiting dark tourism destinations, and do not feel pressured by societal norms of their friends and family, which may prevent them from visiting dark tourism destinations.

The engaging entertainment dimension regarding both attitude ( H3 ) and subjective ( H4 ) was not supported in this study, which is interesting considering the questions in this dimension were developed to determine the importance of the tourists connecting with the information presented at the destination while still having an enjoyable experience.

Like Raine (2013) , this study considered the unique learning experience dimension to include individuals who are hobbyists and are typically visiting these destinations solely for educational purposes and to not engage with the destination as a dark tourism site. To present an alternative consideration to the construct of unique learning experience, Seaton (1996) determined that the more attached a person was to a destination, the less likely they would be fascinated with death, resulting in the tourists not viewing the dark tourism destination as being “dark”. This thought process may be a possibility of explanation for why the relationships were negative between unique learning experience and the TPB constructs, resulting in both Hypothesis 5 and 6 not being supported. Farmaki (2013) strengthens this argument by determining that many tourists visit museums for the purpose of education, but museums will incorporate the concept of death to enhance the tourist experience.

Results from this study also indicate that participants of this study were not traveling to dark tourism destinations for educational purposes. Additionally, results indicate that individuals who were perhaps traveling for the purposes of unique learning experience had negative feelings or experiences with subjective norms, lending to the belief that their family and friends were not supportive of their choice to visit a dark tourism destination.

Raine (2013) discovered a group of tourists she classified as sightseers and passive recreationalists. These tourists can be themed as “incidental” as they were likely not seeking a dark tourism destination related to death and burials, but instead were looking for a destination to escape from everyday life. These statements can easily be supported by this research study as Hypotheses 7 and 8 were both positively supported in relationship to casual interest and attitudes ( H7 ) and subjective norm ( H8 ). The questions asked in this study specifically relate to value of tours, special promotions, and enjoying time with friends and family.

Individuals were seeking attitudinal experiences through their visits to dark tourism destinations, supporting Hypothesis 9 . Unlike the results from Lam and Hsu (2004) , subjective norms do play a role in behavioral intentions. This study found that the influence of societal norms and pressures do influence tourists' intention to visit dark tourism destinations, lending to Hypothesis 10 not being supported as expected. Regarding perceived behavioral control, when tourists feel capable and in control of their tourism choices, it will positively impact their behavioral intention or likelihood of visiting a dark tourism destination, supporting Hypothesis 11 .

Practical implications

Practitioners working in tourism industries and communities of dark tourism destinations can greatly benefit from the results of this study. Managers of dark tourism destinations must realize that visitors are attracted to these locations for many different reasons ( Bissell, 2009 ) and not just for fascination of death or paranormal activity. While this research does not focus specifically on individual motivating factors that influence behavior to visit, overarching attributes were determined to influence behavioral intentions more than others. The significant positive relationships found in this study between dark experience, unique learning experience, and casual interest suggest dark tourism destination managers offer a variety of tours and services to visitors and should be sensitive in how they display or present information so it does not come across as being offensive to tourists in the event they have strong emotional ties to the destination or individual(s) who may have been a victim at the destination.

Due to the broad nature of this study and its data collection efforts, the dark tourism locations visited by participants varied greatly. It can be concluded from the data that the use of television and contemporary media featuring dark tourism locations does positively influence tourists' behavioral intention to visit. Variables related to dark tourism destinations featured on television shows were more strongly favored in relationship to the dark experience construct than engaging entertainment. This indicates that tourists are curious about what they have seen on television or mass media and want to experience similar. Managers of dark tourism destinations featured on television shows should effectively market their locations as such to increase interest and tourism traffic to their destination. If paranormal tours are not currently being offered this would be a recommendation (if applicable) to generate more tourism interest.

Additionally, due to the increased popularity and reliance on websites and social media platforms for information, practitioners should register their location on dark tourism websites and registries so more curious travelers can easily locate them. Utilizing TripAdvisor.com and other similar travel websites is another option for practitioners to generate tourism interest to their destination. Making information readily available and easy to locate for tourists will continue to strengthen the relationship between perceived behavioral control and behavioral intention. Additionally, considering societal norms had a positive relationship with dark tourism constructs within this study, practitioners could market their destination as being taboo to tourists wanting to satisfy their rebellious curiosity.

Limitations and future research

This study has several limitations. Since the data was collected using Qualtrics Panels, potential participants are asked to self-report and assess whether they are eligible dark tourists for this study, based on given definition of dark tourism. Such self-assessment may not always be precise. If adopting this survey method, future research may consider asking participations to provide the specific dark tourism destination type that they have visited in the past 24 months, to help further confirm their eligibility for study participation. It is also recommended that if time and resources permit, future research consider collecting data on-site at dark tourism destinations. Also, this research study did not take into consideration the type of dark tourism destination visited by the respondents. Dark tourism destinations vary in the levels of violence and death that are associated with them ( Seaton, 1996 ; Stone, 2006 ). Future research can investigate additional motivational factors of tourists to visit dark tourism destinations with varying levels of darkness associated to them.

Most of the previous studies are case studies with historical battlefields and concentration camps being the hot spot for tourist activity. It is important and yet lacking to explore the general pattern of the association between motivations and visit intentions to dark tourism sites in general. Ryan and Kohli (2006) suggested there are differences between dark tourism destinations created by natural disasters (e.g., earthquakes in Sichuan, China; Biran et al. , 2014 ) and those that were sites of death at the hand of man (e.g., Auschwitz concentration camp). Moreover, Zhang et al. (2016) were among the few that explored the associated between motivation and association, but only on college students at one specific site. Although this study is inclusive of different dark tourist groups and dark tourism sites, future research may consider factoring in such difference in dark tourism destinations while exploring dark tourist motivations and visit intensions.

Conclusions

This study serves as exploratory research examining the association between tourist motivations and visit intentions and paves the way for future research in dark tourism. This study contributes to the dark tourism literature by proposing a new theoretical framework linking and extending dark tourism motivation construct with the Planned Behavior Construct. Study results can also benefit practitioners in dark tourism sector.

theoretical framework for dark tourism

Graphic representation of theoretical framework and hypothesis testing results

Factor loadings for dark tourism variables

Partial disaggregation parcel groupings of TPB variables

Demographic characteristics of survey participants

CFAs of nested models

Full-data set hypothesis testing results

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Further reading

Krisjanous , J. ( 2016 ), “ An exploratory multimodal discourse analysis of dark tourism websites: communicating issues around contested sites ”, Journal of Destination Marketing and Management , Vol. 5 No. 4 , pp. 341 - 350 , doi: 10.1016/j.jdmm.2016.07.005 .

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Dark Tourists: Profile, Practices, Motivations and Wellbeing

José magano.

1 Research Center in Business and Economics (CICEE), Universidade Autónoma de Lisboa, Rua Sta. Marta 47, 5.º Andar, 1150-293 Lisboa, Portugal

2 ISCET-Higher Institute of Business Sciences and Tourism, Rua de Cedofeita, 285, 4050-180 Porto, Portugal

José A. Fraiz-Brea

3 Department of Business Organization, Business Administration and Tourism Faculty, University of Vigo, 32004 Ourense, Spain

Ângela Leite

4 Center for Philosophical and Humanistic Studies, Faculty of Philosophy and Social Sciences, Portuguese Catholic University, Rua de Camões 60, 4710-362 Braga, Portugal

Associated Data

Datasets are available upon request to the authors.

This work aims to address whether knowing what dark tourism is (or not) impacts rumination on sadness, self-hatred, hostility, psychological vulnerability, and tourist wellbeing, as well as practices and motivations for dark tourism. A quantitative approach, based on a survey of 993 respondents, reveals that women and more educated participants know more about dark tourism; people who know what dark tourism is have visited more Holocaust museums, sites of human tragedy and natural disasters, concentration camps, and prisons; show more curiosity, need to learn and understand, and need to see morbid things. A model was found showing that gender, age, know/do not know dark tourism, and motivations (curiosity, the need to learn, the need to understand, and pleasure) explained 38.1% of a dark tourism practice index. Most findings also indicate that rumination on sadness, self-hatred, hostility, and psychological vulnerability are associated with darker practices. Greater wellbeing was not found in participants who knew in advance what dark tourism was. Interestingly, participants who visit tragic human sites present higher values in hostility and tourist wellbeing than those who do not. In summary, people who visit more dark places and score higher on negative personality characteristics have higher values of tourist wellbeing.

1. Introduction

Many people are increasingly looking for new and unique touristic experiences to satisfy a wide range of motivations. That has driven the segmentation and the emergence of increasingly specific typologies, such as dark tourism, that, in contrast with mass tourism, are characterized by a high degree of diversification and individualization. Dark tourism comprises visiting real or recreated places related with death, suffering, disgrace, or the macabre [ 1 , 2 ]. From the perspective of dark tourism places, it is important to understand what drives people to visit them to design satisfying experiences. We may think of death as an obvious motivation, often part of the site’s history, but it is not always the primary or explicitly recognized motivation for a visit. Sharpley and Stone [ 3 ] admitted that the field of motivation to visit dark tourism destinations remains an understudied area, although recent literature has provided an increasing number of empirical studies about the reasons for visiting those sites [ 4 , 5 ].

This research intends to contribute to the dark tourism literature by seeking to understand whether people know what dark tourism is and identify a differentiated sociodemographic, motivational, and tourist practice profile between people who know and do not know what dark tourism is. In addition, it aims to understand if dark tourists’ motivations for visiting dark tourism destinations explain their practices. The research approach relies on empirically exploring the motivations, practices, and sociodemographic characteristics of a sample of 933 people that participated in a survey held in Portugal.

The remainder of the text is organized as follows: firstly, a brief theoretical background is put forward, focused on the dark tourism concept and dark tourists’ motivations and practices; then, the quantitative study’s applied methods and obtained results are described; finally, the results are discussed, and conclusions and implications are drawn.

2. Theoretical Background

Despite the fact that some authors consider it one of the older forms of tourism, it has gained great popularity amongst academics from the 1990s onwards [ 3 ], confirmed by the significant volume of literature published ever since [ 4 , 5 , 6 ]. However, understanding the demand for this type of tourism persists as poorly defined and theoretically fragile [ 3 , 4 , 7 , 8 ]. For a long time, places that have been the scene of wars, disasters, deaths, and atrocities have always fascinated people, motivating them to travel [ 3 , 9 ]. Sharpley and Stone [ 3 ] often use the term dark tourism as the type of tourism that encompasses traveling to sites related to death, suffering, and macabre—a globally accepted definition. However, Tarlow [ 10 ] implies the phenomenon is complex by describing it as “visits to places where noteworthy historical tragedies or deaths have occurred that continue to impact our lives”, which raises the question about the inherent motives to consume dark tourism.

2.1. Dark Tourists and Their Motivation to Dark Tourism Consumption

Stone’s (2006) idea of dark tourism goes far beyond related attractions. From this standpoint, diverse well-visited tourist sites may become places of dark tourism due to their history linked with death—e.g., suicides in the Eiffel Tower, tombs in the pyramids of Egypt, the Valley of the Kings, and the Taj Mahal, funeral art at the Cairo Museum, and terrorist attacks in Ground Zero [ 11 ]. Ashworth and Isaac [ 12 ] also suggest that all tourist places have a greater or lesser potential of being perceived as “dark.” Accordingly, the same dark tourism place can evoke different experiences in different visitors (i.e., a site one visitor sees as “dark” may not be for another); thus, the authors argue that no site is intrinsically, automatically, and universally “dark,” as, even they may be labeled as dark, they are not always perceived as such by all visitors.

Walter [ 13 ] states that most dark tourism is not specifically motivated, comprising only parallel visits inserted in a trip of a wider reach. Nonetheless, the literature indicates that tourists who visit dark places are not a homogeneous group, and neither the factors inherent to the visitation are the same. Moreover, the “darker” motivation can undertake distinctive levels of intensity. Consequently, in addition to the fascination and interest in death [ 12 , 14 , 15 ], the visit to this type of place is also motivated by personal, cultural, and psychological reasons [ 4 ] or driven by entertainment purposes [ 7 , 16 ].

The literature indicates numerous reasons to visit dark tourism sites: educational experience, desire to learn and understand past events, and historical interest [ 7 , 17 , 18 , 19 , 20 ], as self-discovery purposes [ 17 ], identity [ 7 ], memory, remembrance, celebration, nostalgia, empathy, contemplation, and homage [ 10 , 17 , 20 ], curiosity [ 17 , 19 , 20 , 21 ], the search for novelty, authenticity, and adventure [ 2 , 20 ], convenience when visiting other places [ 19 ], and also status, prestige, affirmation, and recognition that these visits provide [ 22 ]. To a lesser extent, the literature also mentions religious and pilgrimage reasons, feelings of guilt, a search for social responsibility, or heritage experience.

The desire to learn and understand stands out as a motive associated with sites of death and/or heritage. Whereas some visitors exhibit a considerable need for emotional experience and connection to their heritage, engaging, as Slade puts it [ 23 ], in a “profound heritage experience”, and emotionally to the “dark” space influence [ 24 ], other visitors may be knowledge-seekers, who are more interested in a knowledge-enriching experience [ 25 ] than an emotional one and look for gaining a deeper understanding. Isaac et al. [ 20 ] found that memory, gaining knowledge and awareness, and exclusivity were important motivations for dark tourists; also, “(…), consuming dark tourism may allow the individual a sense of meaning and understanding of past disaster and macabre events that have perturbed life projects” [ 2 ]. Tourists’ interest in places associated with death and tragedy may also be related to educational goals [ 9 ].

Curiosity and the need to learn and understand are entwined. Dark tourism develops curiosity and satisfies the desire for knowledge of past suffering and pain [ 26 ]. Ashworth (2004) and Ashworth and Hartmann [ 27 ] suggested three main reasons for visiting dark sites: curiosity about the unusual, attraction to horror, and a desire for empathy or identification with the victims of atrocity. Yan, Zhang, Zhang, Lu and Guo [ 24 ] refer to the curious type of dark tourist who engages cognitively by learning about the issue. From another perspective, dark tourists may feel motivated by morbid tourism [ 28 ] and show interest in specific macabre exhibitions and museums [ 29 ] and fascination with evil [ 30 ], given the morbid nature of dark tourism [ 31 ]. Other authors present yet other motives: secular pilgrimage; a desire for inner purification; schadenfreude or malicious joy; “ghoulish titillation”; a search for the otherness of death; an interest in personal genealogy and family history; a search for “authentic” places in a commodified world; and a desire to encounter the pure/impure sacred [ 18 ]. Iliev [ 4 ] concludes that although tourists visit places related to death, they may not necessarily be considered dark tourists; as already acknowledged, those sites may not be experienced as “dark” by each visitor. It is, therefore, imperative that the so-called dark tourists are considered as such based on their experience.

2.2. Dark Tourist Personality

Some authors who study dark tourism have tried to relate dark tourist practice with personality characteristics, namely with the dark triad—psychoticism, narcissism, and Machiavellianism [ 16 , 32 , 33 , 34 ]. However, the nature of dark tourism, especially that related to the Holocaust, can be so complex that the personality characteristics that motivate it may be less central, so we decided to study the following characteristics: rumination in sadness, self-hatred, hostility, and psychological vulnerability.

Rumination about sadness includes “repetitive thoughts concerning one’s present distress and the circumstances surrounding the sadness” [ 35 ]. These thoughts are related to the nature of one’s negative affect, are not goal-directed nor lead to plans for solutional action [ 36 ], and are not socially shared while the rumination occurs. Thus, rumination on sadness presents a negative content, “does not facilitate problem resolution, is a solitary activity, and is intrusive if the person is pursuing either self-or situationally imposed task-oriented goals” [ 35 ].

Nolen-Hoeksema and Morrow’s [ 36 ] measure of rumination focuses on ideation, contrary to expression or disclosure, but it also includes disclosing feelings to others and emotional expressiveness as components of rumination. According to Nolen-Hoeksema and Morrow [ 36 ], ruminative responses are different from structured problem-solving because people only think or talk about how “unmotivated, sad, and lethargic they feel” (p. 569). Despite that, Nolen-Hoeksema and Morrow’s [ 36 ] stated that ruminative responses include telling others how badly one feels. Although rumination has negative consequences, disclosure may have positive effects [ 37 ]; also, some forms of emotional expressiveness, a component of disclosure, seem beneficial [ 38 ].

Self-hatred is an “enduring dysfunctional and destructive self-evaluation, characterized by attributions of undesirable and defective qualities, and failure to meet perceived standards and values leading to feelings of inadequacy, incompetency, and worthlessness” [ 39 ]. High self-hatred is related to low self-esteem, shame, self-blame or guilt, and a mental state of agitation, raising an experience of psychological and emotional turmoil [ 39 ].

According to Derogatis and Melisaratos [ 40 ], hostility captures thoughts, feelings, and actions associated with hostile behavior. Although the hostility scale measures perceived levels of expressed hostility rather than actual levels of outwardly expressed hostility, the hostility scale is significantly associated with anger [ 41 ], and high anger is related to outward, uncontrolled, and negative expressions of anger [ 42 ].

Psychological vulnerability is the “individual’s capacity to deal with mechanisms of maintaining emotional strength, in case of a pessimistic point of view, due to the lack of social support” [ 43 ]. Psychological vulnerability is a pattern of cognitive beliefs translating to “a dependence on achievement or external sources of affirmation for one’s sense of self-worth” [ 44 ]. Psychological vulnerability is negatively associated with positive affect, self-efficacy, and social support and positively associated with negative affect, perceived powerlessness, and maladaptive coping behavior [ 43 , 44 ]. Dark tourists are subjects situated in emotionally sensitive spaces [ 45 ] that can trigger their psychological vulnerability.

2.3. Research Questions

Although research on dark tourism has increased in recent years, there are not enough studies exploring if people’s knowledge of this phenomenon and their personality traits lead to distinctive dark tourists’ motivations and behaviors. Taking into account the aforementioned motivations to visit dark tourism places, the present study intends to empirically explore if dark tourists’ personality characteristics and sociodemographic variables impact such motivations and dark tourists’ practices and wellbeing (the latter, measured as a dark tourism practice index, given the diversity of known dark tourism practices). Specifically, our research questions are: Do rumination on sadness, self-hatred, hostility, and psychological vulnerability explain the practices and motivations for dark tourism and thus explain tourist wellbeing? Does knowing what dark tourism is (or not) impact rumination on sadness, self-hatred, hostility, and psychological vulnerability, as well as practices and motivations for dark tourism and tourist wellbeing?

3. Materials and Methods

Given the research questions, the aims of the present study are as follows: (1) to find the sociodemographic differences in touristic practices and motivations for dark tourism according to two groups (those who knew what dark tourism is and those who did not know); (2) to assess the fit of the rumination on the sadness scale, self-hatred scale, hostility scale, psychological vulnerability scale, and tourism wellbeing scale; (3) to determine the differences in rumination on sadness, self-hatred, hostility, psychological vulnerability, and tourism wellbeing according to two groups (those who knew what dark tourism is and those who didn’t know); (4) to find the differences in rumination on sadness, self-hatred, hostility, psychological vulnerability, and tourism wellbeing according to practices and motivations for dark tourism; and (5) to determine variables that contribute to the dark tourism practice index. Accordingly, we hypothesize:

Participants who know what dark tourism is are younger and have more education than those who do not.

Participants who know what dark tourism is are more motivated and visit more places associated with dark tourism than those who do not.

All measures show a good fit for the sample.

Differences in rumination on sadness, self-hatred, hostility, psychological vulnerability, and tourism wellbeing according to two groups (those who knew what dark tourism is and those who did not know) will be found.

Differences in rumination on sadness, self-hatred, hostility, psychological vulnerability, and tourism wellbeing according to practices and motivations for dark tourism will be found.

Gender, age, to know/know not dark tourism, and the motivations of curiosity, need to learn, need to understand, and pleasure will contribute to explaining dark tourism practice.

3.1. Procedures

All procedures followed the Declaration of Helsinki and later amendments or comparable ethical standards. The investigation protocol included informed consent, and confidentiality and anonymity of the data were guaranteed. The research protocol was applied in person to a random sample of participants between 18 October and 17 December 2021. The participants were informed about the study’s purpose and were ensured confidentiality and anonymity of the data; they also signed informed consent. The inclusion criteria consisted of being over 18 years old, Portuguese, and having touristic experiences. The respondents were approached by two researchers and five MSc students on the University’s campuses and within their informal networks, with the questionnaire being self-administered.

3.2. Instruments

The instruments that were not validated for the Portuguese population—the Rumination on Sadness Scale (RSS) and the Self-Hatred Scale (SHS)—were first translated from English to Portuguese by two bilingual translators, one from and another not from the field of psychology. Then, a third bilingual translator from the field of psychology provided a reconciliation of the two translations. Next, a native English speaker not from the psychology field independently performed the reconciled version’s back-translation. Finally, the first translator reviewed the back-translated version of the scale and compared it with the original English version to ensure linguistic and cultural equivalence consistency.

  • Sociodemographic questionnaire

The sociodemographic questionnaire included questions related to gender (feminine—0; masculine—1), age, education (no education–0; primary education—1; secondary education—2; higher education—3), marital status (no relationship-single, divorced, separated, widowed–0; in a relationship-boyfriends, married, de facto union—1), and employment status (inactive—unemployed, retired, on sick leave–0; active-student, employee, housewife, caregivers—1).

  • Questionnaire about dark tourism’s practices

The questionnaire on dark tourism practices includes a question about knowledge of dark tourism (or not). In addition, it also asked participants about their tourist practices related to dark tourism (Have you ever visited…? cemeteries; holocaust museums; sites of human tragedy; concentration camps; prisons; sites of war; sites of natural disasters; stop to see accidents). All these questions are answered dichotomously (no—0; yes—1).

  • Questionnaire about dark tourism´s motivations

This questionnaire includes the presentation of several reasons to visit a dark place: curiosity, the need to learn, the need to see, the need to understand, pleasure, and the need to see morbid things. All these questions are answered dichotomously (no—0; yes—1).

  • Rumination on Sadness Scale (RSS)

The Rumination on Sadness Scale, an individual-difference measure of rumination on sadness, was developed by Conway et al. [ 35 ] as an alternative to the Ruminative Responses Scale of the Response Styles Questionnaire (RRRSQ; [ 36 ]). It is a unifactorial scale with 13 items. Higher ratings indicate higher levels of rumination on sadness. Cronbach’s alpha, the internal reliability coefficient, was 0.91 in the original version. Since there is no Portuguese version of this scale, it will be validated in this study.

  • Self-Hatred Scale (SHS)

The Self-Hatred Scale was developed by Turnell et al. [ 39 ] to assess individuals’ levels of self-hatred. Since self-hatred is a significant predictor of suicidal ideation, this scale has the potential to be helpful in suicide risk assessment. Higher ratings indicate higher levels of self-hatred. Cronbach’s alpha was 0.95 in the original version. There is no Portuguese version of this scale, so it will also be validated in this study.

  • BSI Hostility Scale (HSS)

BSI Hostility Scale (HS) is a subscale of the Brief Symptoms Inventory [BSI; [ 40 ]], whose Portuguese version is from Canavarro [ 46 ]. BSI is a 53-item measure to identify self-reported clinically relevant psychological symptoms in adolescents and adults. The BSI covers nine symptom dimensions: Somatization, Obsession-Compulsion, Interpersonal Sensitivity, Depression, Anxiety, Hostility, Phobic Anxiety, Paranoid Ideation, and Psychoticism; and three global indices of distress: Global Severity Index, Positive Symptom Distress Index, and Positive Symptom Total. The Hostility subscale includes five items, and higher ratings indicate higher levels of hostility. In the original version, the alpha coefficients for the nine dimensions of the scale ranged from 0.64 in the Psychoticism dimension to 0.81 in the Somatization dimension. In the Portuguese version, the alpha coefficients ranged from 0.71 in the Psychoticism dimension to 0.85 in the Depression dimension.

  • Psychological Vulnerability Scale (PVS)

The Psychological Vulnerability Scale (PVS) was designed to obtain information about maladaptive cognitive patterns, such as dependence, perfectionism, need for external sources of approval, and generalized negative attributions. The PVS is a six-item scale with higher scores indicating greater psychological vulnerability. In the original version [ 44 ], Cronbach’s α coefficient ranged from 0.71 to 0.87 for different samples; in the Portuguese version [ 47 ], Cronbach’s α coefficient was 0.73.

  • Tourism Wellbeing Scale (TWS)

The Tourism Wellbeing Scale (TWS) was developed by [ 48 ] Garcês et al. (2018 [ 49 ]); it aims to evaluate tourism wellbeing in each destination, having been built from positive psychology variables, namely, wellbeing, creativity, optimism, and spirituality. It is a unifactorial scale with eight items. Higher ratings indicate higher levels of tourism wellbeing. Cronbach’s alpha was 0.97 in the original version.

3.3. Data Analysis

Prior to analysis, the normality of items was examined by skewness (SI) and kurtosis (KI) indexes; absolute values of SI less than 3 and KI less than 10 indicate a normal distribution of the data. [ 50 ]. All the instruments were subject to a confirmatory factor analysis (CFA) procedure with maximum likelihood estimation (MLE). The model fit evaluation was based on test statistics and approximate fit indexes, following the thresholds presented in Kline [ 50 ]. Thus, a non-significant model chi-square statistic, χ 2 , states that the model fits the data acceptably in the population; the higher the probability related to χ 2 , the closer the fit to the perfect fit. A value of the parsimony-corrected index Steiger–Lind root mean square error of approximation (RMSEA) close to 0 represents a good fit; RMSEA ≤ 0.05 may indicate a good fit, but the upper bound of the 90% confidence interval exceeding 0.10 may indicate poor fit; also, this test should be non-significant at the 0.05 level. Values of incremental fit index (IFI), Tucker–Lewis index (TLI), and the Bentler incremental comparative fit index (CFI), close to 1 (0.95 or better), are indicators of best fit; also, the standardized root mean square residual (SRMR), a statistic related to the correlation residuals (SRMR over 0.10 suggests fit problems) was used; the smallest the values, the most parsimonious is the model.

Besides goodness-of-fit index evaluation, model re-specification involved analyzing path estimates, standardized residuals of items, and modification indices for all non-estimated parameters. The modifications indices (MI) provide information about potential cross-loadings and error term correlations not specified in the model and the expected change in the chi-square value for each fixed parameter if it were to be freed. Only modifications theoretically meaningful and MI > 11 were considered. Finally, Cronbach’s alpha coefficients were calculated to ascertain the model’s reliability.

Group differences were analyzed. The independent t-test was applied to compare the means of the two groups. In addition, chi-squared was used to compare distributions’ differences and Mann–Whitney test to compare ordinal data. Three measures of the effect size, Cohen’s d, the eta squared, phi, and rank biserial correlation were used according to the variables’ measurement level; interpretation followed Cohen’s [ 51 ] guidelines; the statistical significance level was set at 0.05. Statistical analysis was performed using SPSS version 28 and AMOS version 28.

The sample includes 993 participants, mainly female, in a romantic relationship, with secondary or university education, and active; the mean age is around 31 years. Statistically significant differences were found concerning age and education between the sample that had already heard about dark tourism and knew what it was and the sample that had not yet heard about it. Participants who had heard about dark tourism were significantly younger and more educated than those who had not ( Table 1 ).

Sample sociodemographic characteristics.

Notes: N = frequencies; % = percentage; M = mean; SD = standard deviation; χ 2 = qui-squared test; Φ = Phi size effect; t = t -test; Cohen’s d = size effect; p = p -value. In bold: statistically significant values.

Concerning the total sample and dark tourism practices, most people have visited cemeteries, and about a third of the sample stopped to see accidents. On the other hand, about a quarter of the sample already had other practices, except for a visit to concentration camps, which was only carried out by about 14% of the total sample. The same trend remains in the sample that has not yet heard about dark tourism and the sample that has. However, there are statistically significant differences between these two samples regarding practices related to dark tourism, being that the sample that has already heard about dark tourism visits many more Holocaust museums, sites of human tragedy, concentration camps, prisons, and sites of natural disasters than the sample that has not yet heard about dark tourism ( Table 2 ).

Dark tourism practices.

Notes: N = frequencies; % = percentage; χ 2 = qui-squared test; Φ = Phi size effect; p = p -value. In bold: statistically significant values.

As for the reasons behind the desire to visit dark places, curiosity stands out in the total sample, with the least chosen reason being the need to see morbid things. The same trend can be seen in the two subsamples. However, there are statistically significant differences between these two samples regarding motives to visit dark places, being that the sample that has already heard about dark tourism presents higher values in the motives related to curiosity, the need to learn and understand, and the need to see morbid things than the sample that has not yet heard about dark tourism ( Table 3 ).

Dark tourism motives.

Table 4 shows the descriptive statistics related to the items of the instruments used in this study: the rumination on sadness, tourism wellbeing, self-hatred, hostility, and psychological vulnerability. The skewness and kurtosis values are all within the normative values, ensuring the normality of the distribution, except for item SHS3 whose values are slightly above the recommended one.

Items’ frequencies.

A confirmatory factorial analysis of the rumination on sadness scale was carried out to confirm the authors’ model [χ 2 (46) = 4.121; CFI = 0.977; TLI = 0.961; IFI = 0.977; RMSEA = 0.056; PCLOSE = 0.107: SMRM = 0.028]; however, to achieve this model fit, some correlations between errors were established ( Figure 1 ).

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Model fit of Rumination on Sadness Scale.

Confirmatory factorial analysis of the self-hatred scale [χ 2 (11) = 5.118; CFI = 0.992; TLI = 0.984; IFI = 0.992; RMSEA = 0.064; PCLOSE = 0.069: SMRM = 0.015] ( Figure 2 ), hostility scale [χ 2 (2) = 4.216; CFI = 0.995; TLI = 0.976; IFI = 0.995; RMSEA = 0.057; PCLOSE = 0.317: SMRM = 0.012] ( Figure 3 ), psychological vulnerability scale [χ 2 (7) = 2.886; CFI = 0.992; TLI = 0.983; IFI = 0.992; RMSEA = 0.044; PCLOSE = 0.644; SMRM = 0.018] ( Figure 4 ), and tourism wellbeing scale [χ 2 (16) = 3.787; CFI = 0.979; TLI = 0.964; IFI = 0.980; RMSEA = 0.053; PCLOSE = 0.339: SMRM = 0.029] ( Figure 5 ) were carried out to assess the models’ adjustments. Despite finding good fits for all models, some correlations between errors were established to achieve such fits. Thus, hypothesis H3 is confirmed.

An external file that holds a picture, illustration, etc.
Object name is ijerph-19-12100-g002.jpg

Model fit of Self-hatred Scale.

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Object name is ijerph-19-12100-g003.jpg

Model fit of Hostility Scale.

An external file that holds a picture, illustration, etc.
Object name is ijerph-19-12100-g004.jpg

Model fit of Psychological Vulnerability Scale.

An external file that holds a picture, illustration, etc.
Object name is ijerph-19-12100-g005.jpg

Model fit of Tourism Wellbeing Scale.

There are no differences in the values of rumination on sadness, self-hatred, hostility, psychological vulnerability, and tourism wellbeing concerning knowing what dark tourism is or not ( Table 5 ).

Rumination on sadness (RSS), self-hatred (SHS), hostility (HSS), psychological vulnerability (PVS), and tourism wellbeing (TWBS) frequencies and differences between those who know dark tourism and those who do not.

Notes: α = Cronbach’s alpha; M = mean; SD = standard deviation; MR–mean rank; U = Mann–Whitney test; p = p -value; r = rank-biserial correlation.

Differences were assessed regarding the values of rumination on sadness, self-hatred, hostility, psychological vulnerability, and tourism wellbeing according to dark tourism practices. Being that only statistically significant results are presented, it was found that participants who visit cemeteries have significantly lower values of self-hatred and psychological vulnerability than participants who report not visiting cemeteries ( Table 6 ). Furthermore, those who visit tragic human sites present higher values in hostility and tourism wellbeing than those who do not. Those who visit sites of war present higher values in self-hatred than those who did not. Those who visit site of natural tragedies also present higher values in hostility and tourism wellbeing. Lastly, those who stop to see accidents present higher values in rumination on sadness, self-hatred, hostility, psychological vulnerability, and tourism wellbeing than those who do not stop ( Table 6 ).

Rumination on sadness (RSS), self-hatred (SHS), hostility (HSS), psychological vulnerability (PVS) and tourism wellbeing (TWBS) frequencies and differences according to dark tourism practices.

Notes: α = Cronbach’s alpha; M = mean; SD = standard deviation; MR–mean rank; U = Mann–Whitney test; p = p -value; r = rank-biserial correlation. In bold: statistically significant values.

Differences were also assessed concerning the values of rumination on sadness, self-hatred, hostility, psychological vulnerability, and tourism wellbeing according to dark tourism motives. Those participants who identified curiosity, need to see, and need to understand as reasons to visit dark places in the context of tourism presented higher values in rumination on sadness, self-hatred, hostility, psychological vulnerability, and tourism wellbeing than those who did not identify curiosity as a motive ( Table 7 ). Concerning the motive “need to learn”, it was found to be a statistically significant difference in tourism wellbeing, being that those who identified the need to learn as a motive to visit dark places in the context of tourism present higher values in tourism wellbeing and self-hatred than those who did not. Those participants who identified the need to see as a reason to visit dark places in the context of tourism presented higher values in rumination on sadness, self-hatred, hostility, and psychological vulnerability than those who did not identify the need to see as a motive ( Table 7 ). Those participants who recognized the need to understand as a reason to visit dark places in the context of tourism present higher values in rumination on sadness, hostility, psychological vulnerability, and tourism wellbeing than those who did not identify the need to understand as a motive ( Table 7 ). Concerning the motive “pleasure”, it was found a statistically significant difference in tourism wellbeing; those who recognized pleasure as a motive to visit dark places presented higher values in tourism wellbeing than those who did not. Lastly, those participants who identified the need to see morbid things as a reason to visit dark places presented higher values in rumination on sadness, self-hatred, hostility, and psychological vulnerability than those who did not identify the need to see morbid things as a motive ( Table 7 ).

Rumination on sadness (RSS), self-hatred (SHS), hostility (HSS), psychological vulnerability (PVS), and tourism wellbeing (TWBS) frequencies and differences according to dark tourism motives.

After creating a new variable, an index about practices related to dark tourism, based on the individual items, we carried out a multiple linear regression in which the dependent variable is the index, and the independent variables are the motivations, with the intent to find the variables that explain the touristic practice. It was found that gender, age, know/know not dark tourism, and motives (curiosity, need to learn, need to understand, and pleasure) explain 38% of the touristic practice ( Table 8 ).

Variables that contribute to the dark tourism practice index.

Notes: R 2 = R squared; R 2 Adj. = R squared adjusted; B = unstandardized regression coefficients; EP B = unstandardized error of B; β = standardized regression coefficients; ** p < 0.001.

5. Discussion

The aims of the present study were to find the sociodemographic differences in touristic practices and motivations for dark tourism according to two groups (those who knew what dark tourism is and those who did not know); to determine the differences in rumination on sadness, self-hatred, hostility, psychological vulnerability, and tourism wellbeing according to two groups; to find the differences in rumination on sadness, self-hatred, hostility, psychological vulnerability, and tourism wellbeing according to practices and motivations for dark tourism; and, at last, to determine variables that contribute to a dark tourism practice index. To this end, we carried out a cross-sectional study that included questionnaires related to sociodemographic aspects, motivations to visit dark tourism places, practices of dark tourism, the rumination on the sadness scale, the self-hatred scale, the hostility scale, the psychological vulnerability scale, and the tourism wellbeing scale.

Concerning the participants’ profiles, those who had heard about dark tourism were significantly younger and more educated than those who had not. These results confirm hypothesis H1. These results corroborate those of Millán, et al. [ 52 ] who found a profile of dark tourists in Cordoba between 26 and 40 years old and having university studies. Dark tourism is a niche market [ 53 ] and also is itself a trend [ 54 ], and young people are more available and attentive to new trends [ 55 ]. In addition, more educated people seek more information and have superior technological skills [ 56 ]. Significant differences between the two samples regarding practices related to dark tourism were found, being that the sample that has already heard about dark tourism visits much more Holocaust museums, sites of human tragedy, concentration camps, prisons, and sites of natural disasters than the sample that has not yet heard about dark tourism. These results confirm hypothesis H2. According to Iliev [ 4 ], “if tourists do not experience a site as dark, then they cannot be called dark tourists”, so the author proposed a more apparent distinction of the “dark tourists” based on experience. Ashworth and Isaac (2015) also stated that any tourist site has a greater or lesser potential of being perceived as “dark.” Besides, “darkness cannot be viewed as an objective fact because it is subjectively and socially constructed since (different) people in various (cultural or social) contexts understand and experience dark tourism in different ways” [ 57 ]. In fact, we may ask “who makes the association of ‘darkness’ to a place? Is the label ‘dark tourism’ applied by those offering (and commoditizing) the visitor experience? Alternatively, is any “dark” significance to be evaluated and decided upon by the tourists themselves?” [ 58 ]. “Dark tourism consumption can no longer be derived as an ordinary activity where humans might engage in for “fun”, but rather as part of a quest for a deeper experience, especially in our inherent fear of death” [ 4 ].

The subsample that has already heard about dark tourism presents higher values in the curiosity, the need to learn and understand, and the need to see morbid things motives than the sample that has not yet heard about dark tourism. These results also confirm hypothesis H2. In fact, dark tourists are very interested in understanding historical events; they are psychologically moved by the need to be in contact with authentic experiences by looking at the other’s death as if it were their own death [ 59 ]. One of the motivations that drive dark tourists is the possibility of re-creating the same emotions victims experienced, followed by the authenticity issue [ 60 ]. “Many dark tourists are motivated by the desire and interest in cultural heritage, learning, education, understanding about what happened at the dark site” [ 4 ].

There are no differences in the values of rumination on sadness, self-hatred, hostility, psychological vulnerability, and tourism wellbeing concerning knowing what dark tourism is or not. Therefore, hypothesis H4 cannot be confirmed. These results apparently seem to contradict the relationship between the dark triad of the personality (narcissism, Machiavellianism, and psychopathy) and the practice of dark tourism [ 16 , 32 , 33 , 34 ]. That relationship, studied by those authors, reflects the practice of dark tourism and not the knowledge about it (which is the subject of our study), although there is hardly any knowledge without practice. Concerning tourism wellbeing, these results may question Kidron [ 61 ] who said that dark tourism generates wellbeing and thus assume that dark tourists show wellbeing despite dark practices. However, our results do not show greater wellbeing in the participants who knew in advance what dark tourism was in relation to the others.

Participants who visit cemeteries have significantly lower values of self-hatred and psychological vulnerability than participants who report not visiting cemeteries. Visiting a cemetery can fulfill different functions, such as visiting a dark place or the social and cultural function of honoring the dead. Probably, our results reflect this last function to the detriment of the first and this conformity to cultural and social practices is in accordance with lower values of psychopathology [ 62 ], namely rumination on sadness, self-hatred, hostility, and psychological vulnerability. This result partially confirms hypothesis 5.

Those who visit sites of war present higher levels of self-hatred than those who did not. Furthermore, those who visit natural tragedies sites present higher values in hostility and tourism wellbeing than those who do not. This result reflects the relationship of this tourist practice with the above-mentioned dark triad [ 16 , 32 , 33 , 34 ] and is in line with Kidron [ 61 ], who suggested wellbeing in dark tourists. At last, those who stop to see accidents present higher values in rumination on sadness, self-hatred, hostility, psychological vulnerability, and tourism wellbeing than those who do not stop. Again, this result reveals the relationship between psychopathology and tourist wellbeing that needs to be further explained, although some authors suggest that psychopathology leads to less tourism wellbeing [ 63 ]. This result partially confirms hypothesis 5.

Participants who identified curiosity as a reason to visit dark places in the context of tourism presented higher values in rumination on sadness, self-hatred, hostility, psychological vulnerability, and tourism wellbeing than those who did not identify curiosity as a motive. Curiosity has been a central reason pointed out in the literature for tourism in general [ 64 ] and, specifically, for dark tourism [ 15 , 17 , 19 , 20 , 21 , 65 , 66 ]. Curiosity is a complex construct, which can be seen as something positive, but it can also contain darker aspects of the personality, namely morbid curiosity, and this fact explains its relationship with, on the one hand, wellbeing, and, on the other hand, with rumination on sadness, self-hatred, hostility, and psychological vulnerability. This result partially confirms hypothesis 5.

The participants who identified the need to learn, the need to understand as motives to visit dark places in the context of tourism present higher values in tourism wellbeing and self-hatred than those who did not. The need to learn and understand are also central reasons for tourism in general and their relationship with wellbeing does not seem specific to dark tourism [ 67 ]. This result partially confirms hypothesis 5.

The participants who identified the need to see as a reason to visit dark places in the context of tourism presented higher values in rumination on sadness, self-hatred, hostility, psychological vulnerability, and tourism wellbeing. This result partially confirms hypothesis 5. Similarly to the need to learn, the need to see correlates with wellbeing but with psychopathology. Perhaps this need to learn motivation is correlated with the touristic practice of seeing morbid things [ 68 ].

The participants who recognized pleasure as a motive to visit dark places presented higher values in tourism wellbeing than those who did not. This result partially confirms hypothesis 5. Dark tourism conforms with the pleasure of tourism in general (Yanjun et al., 2015); wellbeing derives from the emotional experience of dark tourism as a motor for transforming the self [ 69 ].

The participants who identified the need to see morbid things as a drive to visit dark places presented higher values in rumination on sadness, self-hatred, hostility, and psychological vulnerability. The need to see morbid things may be a specific motivation for dark tourism [ 1 , 70 ] and not tourism in general. To that extent, the relationship between this motivation and rumination on sadness, self-hatred, hostility, and psychological vulnerability is justified. This result partially confirms Hypothesis 5.

The reasons to visit dark places-curiosity, the need to see, the need to understand, and pleasure are positively and significantly correlated with all places associated with dark tourism. Gender, age, know/know not dark tourism, and motives (curiosity, the need to learn, the need to understand, and pleasure) explained 38.1% of the practice index variance, thus confirming H6. These results mean that motivations to visit dark places are associated with the touristic activity itself and may contradict those of Buda [ 71 ], that claims more emotional and psychoanalytical explorations through the concepts of the death drive [ 71 ], desire [ 72 ], and unconsciousness and voyeurism [ 73 ]. In fact, dark tourists are not altruistic persons [ 14 , 60 ]. Moreover, Jovanovic, Mijatov, and Šuligoj [ 32 ] found that Machiavellianism was related to the preference for dark exhibitions, psychopathy to the preference for visiting conflict/battle sites, and sadism was negatively related to the preference for fun factories and dark tourism sites. However, the “darker” motivation may present different levels of intensity; besides the fascination and interest in death [ 15 ], these visits are also motivated by personal, cultural, and psychological reasons [ 4 ] and/or by entertainment purposes such as entertainment-based museums of torture [ 7 , 16 ]. One of the most curious outcomes of this study is the association of motivations to visit dark tourist sites and self-hatred; the fact that the authors have not found any study that could explain such a result suggests this association exists in the context of dark tourism and not of tourism in general. The dark nature of this type of tourism can be attractive to tourists with less positive personality traits such as self-hatred.

6. Conclusions

The results of this study add new knowledge to this area of expertise as it allows us to understand the association between motivations and practices related to dark tourism. This study also identified the main motivations to visit dark places-curiosity, the need to see, the need to understand, and pleasure, being, interestingly, all internal motivations and, thus, contradicting the literature that, in addition to these motivations, also identifies external motivations. Most findings also indicate that the rumination on sadness, self-hatred, hostility, and psychological vulnerability personality dimensions are associated with dark practices (e.g., the need to see morbid things). Lastly, people who visit more dark places and score higher on negative personality characteristics have higher values of tourism wellbeing. These findings are in line with the literature, which suggests that dark tourism generates negative and positive wellbeing (or even ambivalence). As such, dark tourists, even presenting negative personality characteristics, and also because of them, show tourism wellbeing in their practices and motivations.

The fact that this study was held in a specific sample in Portugal may be considered a limitation; future lines of research could extend it to other countries and age segments.

Funding Statement

This research received no external funding.

Author Contributions

Conceptualization, J.M., J.A.F.-B. and Â.L.; methodology, J.M.; formal analysis, J.M. and Â.L.; writing—original draft preparation, J.M.; writing—review and editing, J.M., J.A.F.-B. and Â.L. All authors have read and agreed to the published version of the manuscript.

Institutional Review Board Statement

Ethical review and approval were waived for this study, as no medical research involving human subjects has been carried out, including research on identifiable human material and data, as indicated by the terms of the Declaration of Helsinki.

Informed Consent Statement

Informed consent was obtained from all subjects involved in the study.

Data Availability Statement

Conflicts of interest.

The authors declare no conflict of interest.

Publisher’s Note: MDPI stays neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.

Exploring the Potential of Dark Tourism in the Aftermath of Tropical Cyclone Idai in Chimanimani

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theoretical framework for dark tourism

  • Godwell Nhamo 3 &
  • David Chikodzi 3  

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Although places of human-induced death, suffering and torture have aroused great interest in terms of their local, national and global following, a new wave of natural disasters has fuelled and re-ignited research interest in dark tourism. The chapter investigates the potential of dark tourism at the epicentre of Tropical Cyclone Idai that devastated Zimbabwe in March 2019. A household questionnaire survey, interviews and field observations were the main methods applied to generate data. The GIS and document analysis were methods applied to analyse data. Findings are that the dark tourism idea found resonance in government as Cyclone Idai was the worst natural disaster the country ever witnessed. The authorities have decided to put up memorial sites in the three most affected areas of Ngangu, Machongwe and Kopa, all of them in the Chimanimani district. This new development has the potential to attract special tourists in the niche of dark tourism, although some of the artefacts of interest like the ropes that were used to save lives in Kopa were removed from the site. Furthermore, communities that had struggled for years to get quarry stone for construction were mining these at potential dark tourism sites. Hence, the value of the sites was constantly being degraded. Among some of the stones that were at risk from quarrying were those marked as potential sites for the missing dead. The paper concludes that there is a potential for dark tourism in Zimbabwe and steps need to be taken to realise and promote it.

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Nhamo, G., Chikodzi, D. (2021). Exploring the Potential of Dark Tourism in the Aftermath of Tropical Cyclone Idai in Chimanimani. In: Cyclones in Southern Africa. Sustainable Development Goals Series. Springer, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-72393-4_13

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Consumption, motivation and experience in dark tourism: a conceptual and critical analysis

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2021, Tourism Geographies

A review of recent relevant literature related to dark tourism indicates that there is a growing academic interest in ‘dark tourism consumption’, ‘dark tourism motivation’ and ‘dark tourism experience’. Therefore, the objectives of the present research are threefold: to examine the progress of research on these three concepts; to give a critical analysis of recent research; and to identify research gaps and questions that require fuller examination. In order to adopt new research orientations, the use of a broader post-disciplinary research framework is in need. The findings reveal that the three concepts are evolving and advancing, and new researches push the boundaries of exploration into new directions. From the analysis of recent literature, it can be concluded that thanatopsis is a rare characteristic of tourist visits. This is in contrast to the early conceptual studies, which claim that death is the primary motive for visiting dark sites. The findings reveal that many visitors are motivated by the desire and an interest in cultural heritage, learning, education, understanding about what happened at the dark site etc. It is important to emphasise that these motivations are affected by internal conflicts that the experience generates. Tourist experience is more in line with that of a mainstream heritage sites. In general, if tourists do not experience a site as dark, then they cannot be called dark tourists. Hence, the present research appeals to a clearer distinction of the ‘dark tourists’ based on experience. Except for the ‘mortality mediation model’, ‘dystopian dark tourism’ and ‘Terror Management Theory’, there are limit efforts to understand tourists at dark sites. Therefore, scientists must propose new approaches and additional empirical researches to prove that interest in death is a key motive for visiting dark sites. Lastly, from the literature review, new directions for further research have emerged.

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ATITHYA: A Journal of Hospitality

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Tourism is a multifaceted sector, which is manifested in various forms, including dark tourism. Of late there seem to be an increase in the number of tourist opting for Dark Tourism. This paper studies the motivating factors that influence tourists to visit places that have a past which may be haunted, have a sinister past or is related to death.

Dark tourism has been recognised as a distinctive tourism phenomenon of the twenty-first century, with increasingly significant numbers of visitors and tourists going to dark tourism attractions and sites, new dark tourism products and attractions emerging, and modern global communication media generating interest in dark tourism attractions, while at the same time affecting the image of destinations. The phenomenon of dark tourism has been examined in academia from the mid-1990s; however, it remains one of the less developed areas of tourism and leisure research. Not surprisingly, knowledge of the experiences of visitors and tourists at dark tourism attractions and sites is both theoretically fragile and limited. In redressing this omission in tourism and leisure research, this study examines the effect of enduring involvement and socio-demographic variables on visitor experiences and benefits gained at a contemporary dark tourism site. The focus of the study is the April 3rd Peace Park on Jeju Island, South Korea, a site commemorating and memorialising one of the most destructive episodes in modern Korean history. In doing so, the study developed a theoretical framework for understanding visitor experiences at dark tourism sites, using a benefits-based approach along with the concept of enduring involvement. This approach provides a framework for comprehending visitors‘ dark tourism experiences by identifying reasons for visit, on-site experiences, and benefits gained from these experiences. Enduring involvement is applied to investigate the effect of a visitor‘s ‗personal connection‘ to the tragic event when it comes to their experiences at the site. The April 3rd Peace Park on Jeju Island commemorates a violent political conflict, which began on April 3rd in 1948, and resulted in 30,000 of the inhabitants dead or missing. The park was inaugurated in 2008 for the purposes of education, commemoration, and reconciliation within the Jeju community, in which the family and relatives of both victims and perpetrators still live. The research employs qualitative and quantitative research methods to explore visitor experiences. In its qualitative component, 46 semi-structured interviews were conducted between September and October 2008 in order to identify reasons for visit, the cognitive and affective on-site experiences of visitors and the benefits gained from their visit. This data was utilised in the construction of a site-specific questionnaire. In the quantitative component, self-administered questionnaires and face-to-face interviews were conducted from June 23 to July 31, 2009. A total of 407 valid questionnaires, out of 450 distributed, were utilised to test 16 hypotheses derived from the theoretical framework. The results indicate that a benefits-based approach was effective in exploring visitors‘ dark tourism experiences. With this approach, a sense of obligation or personal duty was identified as one of the key reasons for visiting the site. Emotional experiences were also found to be important, and likely to lead to the visitors‘ benefits gained. However, results also indicate a benefits-based approach was not effective for segmentation of visitors. In relation to enduring involvement, visitor experiences and benefits gained from experiencing the site and its history were found to differ significantly based on visitors‘ level of enduring involvement. High involvement visitors were more likely to recall actual memories of the April 3rd incident, as opposed to acquiring knowledge of it or related issues at the site itself, in stark contrast with low involvement visitors. These differences in visitor experiences and benefits gained were due therefore to visitors‘ prior knowledge of and familiarity with the incident. The results of the study also indicate that high involvement visitors are more likely to be elderly, to reside locally, to be connected to the incident, or to have higher levels of education. Low involvement visitors on the other hand are more likely to be young, non-local, and with generally lower levels of education. The study concludes that an effective way of understanding dark tourism experiences from a theoretical perspective is to apply both a benefits-based approach and the concept of enduring involvement.

Tourism: An Interdisciplinary International Journal

Enlightening Tourism: A Pathmaking Journal

Eleni Mavragani

Maximiliano E. Korstanje

Korstanje M E (2016) Towards a new horizon of dark tourism studies". Korstanje M E & Handayani B eds Gazing at Death: Dark Tourism as an Emergent Horizon of Research. New York, Nova Science Pubs This chapter discusses on the needs of introducing new methodologies in dark tourism fields. At the same time, it is necessary to revisit the limitations and controversies in the current specialized literature. Because of dark tourism arose as an emergent theme in tourism academy, scholars have little information on this theme. We juxtaposed my own experience in the fieldwork as researchers with the outcomes of colleagues who have delved in dark tourism site. We discuss the preliminary outcomes of some authorative voices as Phillip Stone, Richard Sharpley and Anthony Seaton. They start from a biased diagnosis of Thanaptosis which merits to be discussed. In this essay we hold the thesis that knowledge-production in this field stagnated because of two main reasons. Firstly, scholars do not dissociate what is cognition from emotionality, confusing perception with interpretation. Secondly, fieldworkers over-valorize some obstructive methods as questionnaires or formal interviews over qualitative viewpoints. Helping to expand their current understanding of dark tourism, this work dissects on what are the next horizons for research. Dark tourism studies, nowadays, lack of concise epistemological discussion to understand " thanaptosis, " as well * [email protected].

Louise Williams

“As mortal finite beings, as we shall live so we shall die” (Stone 2006, p. 147). We all start with a beginning, middle and an end. The end is a fascination which concurs with fear. Death is unavoidable, and the only option is acceptance. However, to what extent can the object of fascination test the boundaries of human nature when it comes to dark tourism? One must ask, does the aspect of fear, give credence to dark tourism; a phenomenon that provokes a conversation about the past, ethics and the inevitable, death (Niemala, 2010). The generation of fear is a positive reaction to the museum exhibits, as it fulfils a demand in the necessity to know our own past; the fear of the unknown; the afterlife. However, is it easier for the exhibit to reveal a personal identity, in order for the remains to be easily accepted? It takes careful consideration on how the remains are treated, and what ethical standpoint do the museums have, especially with regards to the Museums Association’s Code of Ethics. National Museum Wales defines human remains to signify the bodies, and parts of bodies, of once living people from the species Homo Sapiens (2006). In many ways, the descriptive manner of Goulding’s ‘Body Worlds’ (2013), would at first repel the reader, due to the graphic nature and the mannerisms it includes. However, down to human curiosity, the reader would find the content fascinating, yet filled with descriptive manner of the content such as the “fat man’s sliced epidermis like a slice of bacon” (p. 319). In spite of this notion, what individuals fear, is what we all have in common. However, as a society we are enthralled by that we fear. Nevertheless, the symbolism of fear of the unknown emphasise the need to be part of the “immortal memory” (O'Neill 2012, p. 62), in order to signify that the individual’s life had meaning, and a sense of validation. The fear of death itself is down to the fear of the unknown. Even after death, the individual still lives, not in the literal sense, but in the donation of the human body (Goulding 2013: 318). In spite of this, dark tourism is simply a manifestation of consumer demand (Stone, 2006: 145), where Stone adds, the supply and the demands to fulfil these curiosities are down to reasons such as politics, remembrance purposes, for education, for entertainment or for economic gain (p. 148). Where both dark tourism and thanatourism are concerned, the visitation of such sites from individuals arises from a movement at which encountering death becomes a significant experience (Johnston, 2013). Dark tourism has been generally described as tourism involving locations associated with death and great suffering (Gibson, 2006: 47). On the other hand, thanatourism is a ‘mediating’ process which allows a safe and acceptable link with the dead (Stone, 2012). The fear and curiosity of death, one can argue is due to religion, due to the changes in attitudes and beliefs in regards to the afterlife. As O’Neill (2012) states, the worldview about the afterlife are not completely stable (p. 59). This is a perfectly justifiable assumption, as there is no unanimous decision on the afterlife. However, does this mean that these exhibits are any less humane? In an exhibit such as ‘Body Worlds’, one must ask, if you remove the sense of humanness in an exhibit, would it then make the exhibits easier to be accepted and absorbed by the visitor? Haslam (2006) states the two forms of dehumanization; denying the individual a sense of humanness by removing any characteristics that are uniquely human; the denial of characteristics that constitute human nature. With objects, museums should carefully assess their value and reasonably foreseeable potential for research, teaching and display (DCMS, 2005). Education and the demonstration of awareness of dehumanization are culturally important to show an understanding of the idea of human mortality. The museum fatigue reflects the struggle of bringing the objects of the dead to life, and to suppressing thoughts of death to which they give rise. (O’Neill 2012: 62). However, likewise make significant contributions to the resultant interest of the visitors in the object (Melton, 1972). In addition, to challenging the human perspective of death, Maleuvre believes that a challenging and an upset of our comfort zone is the purpose of education (2012: 117).Whereas zoos have a high advantage if it is visually pleasing, sufficiently entertaining and the animal presentations offer enough scientific realism (Grazian, 2012, p. 548). However, although zoos are not often thought of as a museum in itself, they still hold the same purpose, primarily to educate and entertain. Nonetheless, issues of exhibiting both human and animal remains reflects the limitations and boundaries museums take in order to fulfil the need to educate concurrently. This limitation relates to the spiritual beliefs of the community where the exhibit originated. The Code of Ethics states that research on human remains must take into account the interest and beliefs of the community, ethnic or religious groups from whom the objects originated, where these are known (Besterman, 2007: 26). This question of boundaries is due to one commonality, identity. If recognition of one’s heritage by others is key, then the object is ultimately not a sin qua non of a people’s identity (Shapiro, 1998). In terms of cataloguing, the Museums Association stress that a greater transparency from museums holding human remains, including the publication of detailed information of remains in their collections, is an important step forward (2005). To summarise, the limitations of what we can educate and entertain for individual and scientific purposes, is the limit to what the museum itself wants us to see. The museum fatigue, demonstrates the fear museums hold around this subject; demonstrating a variation of views. The perception of death we deal on a daily level. One must ask to what ethical standpoint we can exhibit death as a normal feature in our lives. In general, museums have the responsibility in looking after these exhibits, and the way that they are treated is primarily the issue for the ethical standpoint, as the truth is, we have not fully accepted these exhibits, just as we, as a society have not accepted the concept of death. Bibliography Besterman, T., 2007. Report to the Board of Trustees of the British Museum: repatriation claim for Māori kōiwi tangata. [Online] Available at: https://www.britishmuseum.org/pdf/00%2022%20Tristram%20Besterman%20report%20dated%20April%2007.pdf [Accessed 20 October 2014]. DCMS, 2005. Guidance for the Care of Human Remains in Museums. [Online] Available at: https://www.britishmuseum.org/pdf/DCMS%20Guide.pdf [Accessed 20 October 2014]. Gibson, D., 2006. The Relationship between Serial Murder and the American Tourism Industry. Journal of Travel and Tourism Marketing, 20(1), pp. 45-60. Goulding, C., Saran, M. & Lindridge, A., 2013. Reading the Body at Von Hagen's 'Body Worlds'. Annals of Tourism Research, Volume 40, pp. 306-330. Grazian, D., 2012. Where the Wild Things Aren't: Exhibiting Nature in American Zoos. The Sociology Quarterly, Volume 53, pp. 546-565. Haslam, N., 2006. Dehumanization: An Integrative Review. Personality and Social Psychology Review, 10(3), pp. 252-264. Johnston, T., 2013. Mark Twain and The Innocents Abroad: illuminating the tourist gaze on death. International Journal of Culture, Tourism and Hospitality Research, 7 (3), pp. 199-213. Maleuvre, D., 2012. Muse Museums Be Inclusive?. Journal of Educational Media, Memory, and Society, 4(2), pp. 112-125. Melton, A. M., 1972. Visitor Behavior in Museums: Some Early Research in Environmental Design. Human Factors, 14(5), pp. 393-403. Museum Association, 2005. Response to consultation on the draft code of conduct for the Care of Human Remains. [Online] Available at: http://www.museumsassociation.org/policy/01072005-response-to-consultation-on-draft-code-of-conduct-for-care-human-remains-in-museums [Accessed 19 October 2014]. National Museum Wales, 2006. Collections Management Policies - Policy on Human Remains. [Online] Available at: https://www.museumwales.ac.uk/1181/ [Accessed 12 October 2014]. Niemala, T., 2010. Motivation Factors in Dark Tourism. [Online] Available at: https://publications.theseus.fi/bitstream/handle/10024/14984/Niemela_Titta.pdf?sequence=3 [Accessed 20 November 2014]. O'Neill, M., 2012. Museums and Mortality. Material Religion, 8(1), pp. 52-75. Shapiro, D., 1998. Repatriation: A Modest Proposal. New York University Journal of International Law and Politics, Volume 31, pp. 95-108. Stone, P., 2006. A dark tourism spectrum: Towards a typology of death and macabre related tourist sites, attractions and exhibitions. [Online] Available at: http://works.bepress.com/philip_stone/4 [Accessed 18 October 2014]. Stone, P. R., 2012. Dark Tourism and Significant Other Death: Towards a Model of Mortality Mediation. Annals of Tourism Research, 39(5), pp. 1565-1587.

Annals of Tourism Research

Current literature on dark tourism largely follows a supply perspective, almost ignoring the tourist experience. Focusing on Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp (here after Auschwitz), the epitome of dark tourism, the present study sheds light on the nature of this tourism experience by clarifying the relations between the symbolic meanings assigned to the site and core elements of the tourist experience (motivation and sought interpretation benefits). The findings suggest that Auschwitz hosts a heritage experience rather than a merely dark tourism one, and that alongside site attributes, tourists’ perceptions of the site should be considered in the conceptualization of the tourist experience. The findings challenge the current understanding of dark tourism as a distinct phenomenon to heritage tourism.

Tourist Studies

While dark tourism aimed at adults reminds them of past tragic fights, faults and follies, thousands of children and youth also consume inherent memorial messages at dark tourism sites. This paper addresses these unnoticed childhood encounters, about which scholarly discourse remains conspicuously silent. At present, dark tourism research focuses almost exclusively on adults and does not adequately explain young tourists’ experiences. How children experience dark tourism sites has much to do with their understanding of death. Because younger children may not possess an adult-like knowledge of death, they are unable to experience a site as dark. Other theoretical disparities include children’s limited agency in choosing their destinations and their unique and often playful exploration of dark places. To address the inadequacy of current dark tourism conceptualisations, we propose a new framework to encourage scholarly interrogation of children’s experiences at dark tourism sites. Dra...

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  1. Dark Tourism Consumption within a Thanatological Framework

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  3. (PDF) DARK TOURISM: The effects of motivation and environmental

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  4. Figure 1 from Dark tourism the effects of motivation and environmental

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  5. Dark tourism: understanding visitor motivation at sites of death and

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  6. The conceptual framework of tourists' memorable dark experiences

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COMMENTS

  1. Dark tourism: motivations and visit intentions of tourists

    Introduction. Dark tourism is defined as the act of tourists traveling to sites of death, tragedy, and suffering (Foley and Lennon, 1996).This past decade marks a significant growth of dark tourism with increasing number of dark tourists (Lennon and Foley, 2000; Martini and Buda, 2018).More than 2.1 million tourists visited Auschwitz Memorial in 2018 (visitor numbers, 2019), and 3.2 million ...

  2. A Bibliometric Analysis and Systematic Review of Dark Tourism ...

    In dark tourism, a theoretical knowledge framework has been established through this study. This framework sheds light on collaborative and co-occurring networks, and highlights the latest research trends. By analysing author cooperation and co-occurrence, the study provides an up-to-date overview of the current state of the research.

  3. Dark Tourists: Profile, Practices, Motivations and Wellbeing

    2. Theoretical Background. Despite the fact that some authors consider it one of the older forms of tourism, it has gained great popularity amongst academics from the 1990s onwards [], confirmed by the significant volume of literature published ever since [4,5,6].However, understanding the demand for this type of tourism persists as poorly defined and theoretically fragile [3,4,7,8].

  4. PDF A Bibliometric Analysis and Systematic Review of Dark Tourism: Trends

    The theoretical framework of dark tourism is an area of research that explores the motivations, experiences, and ethical considerations related to visiting sites associated with death and tragedy (Mora Forero et al.2022b). Dark tourism, also known as thanatotourism, is often associated with grim geographical locations, such as prisons, crime ...

  5. A Broaden-and-Build Theoretical Perspective on Dark Tourism Visitors

    Dark tourism typically involves "visiting sites, attractions or events that are linked in one way or another with death, suffering, violence or disaster" (Sharpley & Stone, 2009, p. 4). ... Using the Broaden-and-Build model as a theoretical lens, we aim to examine the process through which visitors' unpleasant emotions can transform into ...

  6. Dark tourism spectrum: Visual expression of dark experience

    Theoretical framework. Therefore, this study aimed to explore the influence of tourist dark experience on the darkness of their visual expression. ... Dark tourism, defined as the act of tourists travelling to sites of death, tragedy, and suffering (Foley & Lennon, 1996; Mowatt & Chancellor, 2011), has seen an increasing number of research ...

  7. "Tourists' experience" in dark tourism: a systematic literature review

    The dark tourism framework is an opportunity to link both economic and educational objectives, co-working on a model of consensus, but there is a gap in the literature on dark tourism in terms of ...

  8. Dark Tourism in an Increasingly Violent World

    With this theoretical framework in mind, we are challenged to rethink (or even extend) the notion of morality in consuming dark tourism. Engaging in this type of activity is, for many, not voyeurism as Lennon and Foley ( 2000 ) generalized as the key motivating factor for dark tourism.

  9. Dark Tourism and Social Mobilization: Transforming Travelers After

    The dark tour-ism literature opens the door to fruitful theoretical development regarding ways in which travelers can advocate for minority groups and speak-out against hatred and preju-dice. Similarly, Zheng et al. (2020) aim to conceptualize spiritual meaning as a positive outcome of visiting a war museum.

  10. "Tourists' experience" in dark tourism: a systematic literature review

    The review shows that only half of existing studies use pre-defined theoretical frameworks, and other studies do not report any theories (T); there is a lack of understanding about tourists' experience from the lighter end of the dark tourism spectrum compared with the darker end (C); most dark tourism destinations generate an emotional ...

  11. A social identity perspective on dark tourism impacts

    This theoretical paper, focusing on dark tourism sites of intergroup conflict, aims to enhance dark tourism's potential to advance world peace. ... A reconciliation framework for dark tourism. This study is a response to the increasing urgency of promoting peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development (UN, 2022) ...

  12. Motivations and intentions of tourists to visit dark tourism locations

    previously visited or plan to visit a dark tourism location. Utilizing a combination of the Push-Pull Factor Theory, the Theory of Planned Behavior, and dark tourism constructs, a new theoretical framework was created to determine the motivations and intentions of tourists visiting dark tourism locations. A total of 1068

  13. Consuming dark tourism: A Thanatological Perspective

    In so doing, it proposes a model of dark tourism consumption within a thanatological framework as a basis for further theoretical and empirical analysis of dark tourism. Previous article in issue; ... it would be naive to suggest that the consumption of dark tourism rests solely upon a theoretical notion of providing individuals an opportunity ...

  14. The Darker Side of Travel: The Theory and Practice of Dark Tourism

    According to Stone [13], dark tourism is "an old concept in a new world", and the novelty lies in the growing commodification of dark tourism sites; it "refers to visits, intentional or otherwise ...

  15. Making Sense of Dark Tourism: Typologies, Motivations and Future

    A theoretical framework is proposed for systematizing our understanding of how concepts in tourism emerge and change over time through the example of a structured description of the evolving ...

  16. Dark tourism geographies: ontological, epistemological and axiological

    Abstract. In this state-of-the-art review, we provide an overview of past debates and current trends in dark tourism geographies, and conceptually examine its theoretical intersections with critical issues, emerging ideas, paradigmatic progress and future research directions from three perspectives: ontological, epistemological, and axiological.

  17. Exploring the Potential of Dark Tourism in the Aftermath of ...

    Reasons people visit dark tourism sites and harness their (negative) emotions are well documented in psychology and consumer behaviour (Nawijn and Biran 2019).However, González-Tennant considers these sites a "difficult heritage".As such, the concept of "new heritage" is brought in for social justice, particularly with local communities that are both directly and indirectly affected.

  18. Dark tourism, the holocaust, and well-being: A systematic review

    This systematic review adheres to the PRISMA guidelines [54], consisting of the mapping, analysis, and synthesis of the existing literature on Holocaust-related dark tourism and well-being.The criteria for the literature selection included articles in peer-reviewed academic journals, books, and book chapters written in English, published from 1985 to February 2022.

  19. (PDF) Consumption, motivation and experience in dark tourism: a

    Dark tourism has been recognised as a distinctive tourism phenomenon of the twenty-first century, with increasingly significant numbers of visitors and tourists going to dark tourism attractions and sites, new dark tourism products and attractions emerging, and modern global communication media generating interest in dark tourism attractions, while at the same time affecting the image of ...

  20. (PDF) A shot in the dark? Developing a new conceptual framework for

    This. paper, through its in-depth discussion of the concept of 'thanatourism' and through its presentation of a. new thanatourism conceptual framework, attempts to highlight the complex and ...

  21. Does emotional engagement matter in dark tourism? Implications drawn

    The study expands the literature on dark tourism experiences by proposing an adapted dark tourism typology framework whereby emotional engagement is used as an explanatory theoretical concept to better identify and understand the nuanced types of dark tourism experiences. In addition, by adopting a multi-disciplinary and experienced-focused ...

  22. "Tourists' experience" in dark tourism: a systematic literature review

    ABSTRACT This paper systematically reviews previous studies on the dark tourism experience by utilising the theory-context-characteristics-methodology (TCCM) based approach. The review shows that only half of existing studies use pre-defined theoretical frameworks, and other studies do not report any theories (T); there is a lack of understanding about tourists' experience from the lighter ...

  23. (PDF) Young Tourists' Experiences at Dark Tourism Sites: Toward a

    Tourist Studies. Young Tourists' Experiences at Dark Tourism Sites: Toward a Co nceptual Framework. Abstract. While dark tourism aimed at adults remin ds them of past tragic fights, fa ults, and ...