Dark tourism is a topic of increasing interest, but it is poorly understood when considering its significance for mainstream and commercial tourism. The purpose of this paper is to investigate the significance of dark tourism in the top ten most visited European tourist cities and propose a dark tourism index for Europe’s tourism cities.
Data were collected from the websites of the cities’ Destination Management Organisations (DMOs) using a content analysis methodology, based on keywords related to dark tourism taken from the research literature in this area. Descriptive statistics were produced and the variance between the frequencies of keywords related to each city was analysed for statistical significance. These results were then used to construct a darkness ranking of the cities.
There are significant differences in the extent to which dark tourism products and services are promoted by the DMOs of Europe’s top ten most visited European cities. The ranking of cities by darkness does not correspond to the ranking by visitor numbers, and further qualitative analysis suggests that, that the ranking is also independent of the actual presence of dark sites within the destination. This implies that European city DMOs are engaging with the emerging dark tourism market with to varying degrees.
The purposive sample of ten cities can be extended in future research to increase the validity of the findings of this paper. A further limitation is the selection of keywords for content analysis, which have been developed following the literature review contained below. Future research could develop an extended list of keywords using a systematic review process.
This paper shows that it is possible to create a ranking of tourist cities in terms of their darkness, and that this methodology could be extended to a much larger sample size. This links dark tourism research to the urban tourism literature and also offers possibilities for creating a global ranking that could be used by destinations to judge their success in engaging with the dark tourism market, as well as by tour operators seeking to develop products for the same market.
This paper will offer DMO’s and others the opportunity to hone their tourism products more effectively in a way which offers a better understanding of tourism, and therefore provides for better management of its issues.
Dark tourism is a growing niche area of study, and this paper seeks to provide a framework to better understand supply-side aspects of it.
In the paper, we provide the first analysis of shared drone videos of the United Kingdom that examines their value for tourism. Some of these are beautiful, like this one by TheTravellingClatt:
Our research is the first to categorise and analyse user shared drone videos of a tourism destination, and we make some suggestions for how Destination Marketing Organisations can make better use of these, for example:
Making more use of user-shared drone videos of their destinations on platforms like YouTube, and promoting these as well as producing ‘professional’ drone footage;
Providing platforms online for drone enthusiasts to share their destination footage, including on DMO websites;
Acting as ambassadors for drone video creators by providing safe flying zones and helping drone pilots to get access to protected sites.
“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.
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.