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.

Our Greenwich campus

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.”

Interpreting History Conference

On 19th September, I’ll be speaking at the Interpreting History conference at Alexandra Palace in London.  This looks set to be an excellent event, with a focus on how to interpret historical sites and stories for visitors and tourists.  I’ll be talking about dark tourism, and ways in which destinations can interpret their dark histories to attract this market.  You can view the whole programme and book here.

Alexandra Palace
Alexandra Palace- the conference venue

Curated by the England’s Historic Cities consortium, the host of this one day conference will be Dr Jonathan Foyle, architectural historian and self-confessed “historic buildings obsessive” whose TV appearances uncover those stories that makes history relevant to today’s audiences. Jonathan will be joined by a raft of UK and international speakers from leading visitor attractions, tourist boards, heritage bodies, and companies which are currently leading the agenda in digital and interpretation innovation.

Alongside the conference, there will be an exhibition to allow participants to see demonstrations of or to experience for themselves new interpretive technologies and to discuss in depth with their developers.  And there will also be an opportunity for everyone to experience the £27m renovation of the Theatre and East Court at Alexandra Palace, this wonderful Victorian landmark.

Sun, Sea and Shrines – Cultural Tourism in Phuket, Thailand

Our new paper on the diversification of tourism in the Thai island of Phuket has just been published in the journal Geographica Pannonica.  This is an open access journal and so the paper is free to download and read – just click here to open the PDF.

dest-phuket

In the paper we look at the need for diversification in the tourism offer of Phuket, away from ‘sun, sea and sand’ tourism that can sometimes be problematic for the destination, and towards cultural heritage tourism that makes use of the many attractive heritage sites on the island.

In order to make recommendations for the diversification of tourism products on the Thai island of Phuket, this paper applies the analytic hierarchy process (AHP) method to rank the attractiveness of six cultural heritage sites in the island of Phuket to make recommendations for sites that could be incorporated in to cultural tourism development in the region. In addition, it applies a quantitative-qualitative evaluation structure with weighted criteria, based on local expert opinion. The research identified which of the many potential cultural tourism sites would be the most attractive to tourists and shows the utility of the AHP method, combined with quantitative-qualitative evaluation, for decision making in tourism destination development contexts