Dark Tourism and World Heritage Sites
Our new paper, on Dark Tourism and UNESCO World Heritage Sites (WHS), has just been published in the Journal of Heritage Tourism. In the paper, we report on research that we carried out in Greenwich, London, with stakeholders of the Maritime Greenwich WHS. We found that stakeholders were broadly supportive of tourism development in the area, but had very negative views of dark tourism and didn’t support the idea of developing dark tourism products or service in Greenwich.
We suggest that, for anyone considering developing dark tourism in complex, urban WHS, real consideration should be given to working with the very diverse set of stakeholders that sites like these necessarily have. We were surprised that our respondents didn’t tend to focus on the multiple and often difficult histories of a site that is so intimately tied to war, conflict and the British Empire, but given the recent sensationalist media on dark tourism that tends to emphasise shock value, this perhaps made sense. You can read the abstract below and the full paper is here.
“Dark tourism has attracted increasing academic attention, but the extent to which it exists as a separate form of tourism from heritage tourism is not yet clear. Despite the growth of UNESCO World Heritage Site designations, little research has considered the relationship between dark tourism and World Heritage Sites. Because the development of dark tourism is beset with ethical concerns, heritage professionals can have negative perceptions about the acceptability or attractiveness of it for the sites that they are involved in managing. This research used a qualitative Delphi Panel method to evaluate stakeholder perceptions of the potential development of dark tourism to the Greenwich Maritime World Heritage Site in London, United Kingdom. The findings show that stakeholders are broadly supportive of tourism to the site and positive about future tourism growth. Despite this, they did not support the development of dark tourism to the site because it was perceived as inauthentic, tacky and sensationalist. In order to address this issue, recommendations are made that future attempts to develop dark tourism at WHS should involve enhancing the knowledge of stakeholders about dark tourism, and of the resources within their sites that could be included in a dark tourism offer to tourists.”