Dark Cities: A ranking of Europe’s top tourism cities in terms of dark tourism

With my colleagues Raymond Powell and Christopher Barton, we’ve just had a new paper published in the International Journal of Tourism Cities.  In the paper, we analyse the content of the websites for the Destination Management Organisations (DMOs) of each of Europe’s top ten most visited cities.  We carried out content analysis using key words and concepts associated with dark tourism, in order to see whether the DMOs were promoting dark tourism as part of their offer, and whether this was related to their success as a destination.

“Dark tourism can be defined as tourism associated with the visitation of sites which have death, tragedy or suffering as an ingredient in the mix of visitor motivations in some way or other” (Powell et al 2018: 2)

We found that there were very significant differences in terms of that what extent each of these destinations promoted their dark tourism offer on their tourist websites, but that this didn’t seem to be obviously connected to their success in attracting tourists.

darkness ranking table
Source: Powell et al 2018

This was only a very small sample of destination websites, and although it does at first glance appear that the more ‘dark’ you are, the less visited you are, it is difficult to be sure of this at this stage of the research.  What was clear from our data, however, was that European city destinations vary enormously in terms of how their promote their dark tourism offer.

Our next piece of research on this project will look at a larger sample of the top 100 city tourism destinations in the world, with a more sophisticated content analysis methodology.   Recent research suggests that the dramatic growth in academic research into dark tourism hasn’t been mirrored by its acceptance in the tourism industry.  We aim to look at this from the DMO perspective, to discover whether this is the case for city tourism.

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