Travelers’ need from the destination not only stops at lying on the beach or enjoying luxury services but also includes connecting with the unique values of the destination to have authentic experiences. With dark tourism, travelers can explore a very different side, sometimes peculiar, heartbreaking and thrilling, of the destination they are visiting.

What is dark tourism?

Dark tourism refers to visiting places where some of the darkest events, which often related to the death and tragedy, of human history have unfolded. These dark events can include both natural disasters like tsunamis or earthquakes, and accidental events like genocide, assassination, incarceration, ethnic cleansing, war, terrorism, etc.

Dark tourism is also addressed as Thana tourism, black tourism, morbid tourism or grief tourism.

Why is dark tourism gaining increasing attention?

- Documentaries and movies:

Documentaries mostly deal with historical, geographic or cultural issues instead of exposing the destination from the tourism perspective. However, these documentaries also help stirring the audience's interest in the destination through the television screen and contributing to their decision of paying a trip to see these places with their own eyes.

One of the documentary films which was made specifically about dark tourism is “Dark Tourism” produced in 2007- 2008 by the Canada-based German documentary film-maker Manfred Becker. Overall, the program highlighted the observed and conveyed fascination of the sites from the traveler’s eyes while mentioning the problematic aspects of this type of tourism such as tourist behaviors or mercenary service providers.

Netflix's series “Dark Tourists”, which is a New Zealand eight-episode series aired in 2018 with the plot of the journalist David Farrier exploring "weird" and somewhat creepy dark tourist destinations, has also attracted a large audience. The series is highly appreciated on IMDb with a score of 7.6 out of 10 thanks to the cinematography which helps to recreate the authenticity yet attractiveness of the experiences besides the content.

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- The phenomenal Wuhan

Wuhan is the city that recorded the first cases of coronavirus before it became the infamous global pandemic Covid-19, causing travel and economic sectors of almost every country in the world to be in great crisis. Therefore, Wuhan has become familiar to everyone in 2020 and many people cannot hide their interest in visiting this place to see its beauty after a long battle with the pandemic.

In October 2020, the local authorities organized a Wuhan tour for foreign residents who were currently living and working in China. The foreign tourists were taken to visit the Leishenshan Hospital, which was built to take care of the patients during the peak of the outbreak, as well as visit exhibitions organized by the Wuhan government to present its success in curbing the crisis in addition to other usual tourist attractions.

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Then, on November 13, 2020, the Wuhan Culture and Tourism Bureau launched the campaign "Let's Meet In Wuhan" to promote the image of a safe and peaceful destination in the post-pandemic recovery to attract visitors back here.

Potential of dark tourism in Vietnam

Vietnam is a country with a rich history with many locations still bearing traces from the wars. Some typical places that can be exploited for dark tourism include Hoa Lo Prison (in Hanoi), Cu Chi Tunnels and War Remnants Museum (in Ho Chi Minh City) or Con Dao Prison (in Phu Quoc).

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The above places to exploit the dark tourism are all places with historical, cultural and educational values ​​which helps visitors understand more about the destination and the life of Vietnamese people overcoming tragedies in the past. However, DMOs need to have detailed plans and guidelines in place to avoid over-exploitation or over-commercialization eroding its history or humanities.

Source: Destination Review

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