Dark Cities?

This is a presentation based on research that my colleague Raymond Powell and I have been carrying out into Dark Tourism in Europe.  Raymond gave the presentation at the 2nd Annual Conference of the Association of Cultural and Digital Tourism in Athens, Greece.  Dark tourism can be defined as tourism associated with the visitation of sites which have death, tragedy or suffering as their main theme. Commonly such visits are conducted with commemoration, education or entertainment in mind (Stone, 2005). Europe has an abundance of such sites, both real and imagined, which offer ample opportunities to experience dark tourism in all of these ways if so desired. However, they are rarely conceptualised as dark products, and as such categorisation of individual attractions is, at the moment, confused. In the paper that we presented, we begin the process of ranking European cities in terms of how ‘dark’ their tourism offer is.  We hope to develop this over the next couple of years, firstly by carrying out some case studies to verify this initial ranking process.  You can read the abstract of our paper below.


Despite the recent growth of research into dark tourism (Dale & Robinson, 2011; Lennon & Foley, 2000; Stone, 2013; Tarlow, 2005) and the growth of the dark tourism market (Biran & Hyde, 2013; Stone 2005; Stone & Sharpley, 2008), there has been little interest shown in understanding the relationship between dark tourism and urban tourism (Page & Hall 2002). This paper presents the initial findings of a research project that investigates the dark tourism products offered by European cities. A series of keywords were developed following a review of the dark tourism literature and this was used carry out a content analysis of the Destination Marketing Organisation websites for Europe’s ten most visited cities.  The content analysis used Stone’s (2006) Dark Tourism Continuum to evaluate the dark tourism products offered in each destination and to present a descriptive overview of Europe’s city-based dark tourism offer.   The paper concludes that there are a wide range of dark tourism products available to urban tourists in Europe, but that these are rarely conceptualised as such.  The mixture of ‘light’ and ‘dark’ dark tourism products presents difficulties in categorisation and standardisation of the urban tourism offer, but this is a potential area of new product development for DMOs across Europe.

4 responses to “Dark Cities?”

  1. “Dark tourism” is as old as the concept of travelling. Every pilgrimage to a saint’s grave can be considered “dark tourism”.

    On a side note – there is a big difference between visiting a historical site like the Anne Frank house or Chernobyl with the suitable respect, and posting a “thumbs up” in Auschwitz or #happy #holocaustmemorial. The latter is a “stupid tourist”, not a “dark tourist”.

    • Hi Michael and thank you for your comment! It is hard to disagree with you about the behaviour of some tourists….

      I agree, dark tourism is an old phenomenon. I suppose what interests me is how destinations can recognise its potential in their area, and capitalise on this. Pilgrimage destinations have always been very lucrative for local tourism businesses, but many dark tourism destinations gave been slow to respond to the economic opportunities from this segment….

      • My guess is that its the relative non-commercialism of the “dark” locations what makes them appealing. Once they become too popular, the “dark” crowd will find another spot.

  2. Hi Michael – The paper does make the point that dark tourism is an old practice, but I’m not sure it’s so easy to distinguish between “dark” and “stupid” tourists. Perhaps it’s about the purpose of their visit – many pilgrims visited saints’ relics as a form of wellness tourism if one wishes to consider it that way.

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