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Essay: Can Dark Tourism Be Employed as a Teaching Tool to Improve Positive Feelings in Tourists’ Mentality?

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  • Can Dark Tourism Be Employed as a Teaching Tool to Improve Positive Feelings in Tourists’ Mentality?
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Abstract

Significant focus has been directed to dark tourism in the recent past since some people are attracted to sites with somber past events. Such areas include apartheid memorials, Civil War battlefields, and genocide sites. However, the use of dark tourism in teaching tourists and influencing their feelings and mentality has not been researched sufficiently. Therefore, there is a need to investigate whether dark tourism can be a learning tool that may be used to influence individuals’ emotions and mentality. Different people have various perceptions on dark tourism since the activity is expected to impact the tourists’ emotional experience and knowledge in varying ways. Emotional experiences are expected to contribute to positive outcomes since they determine how people view life. In a bid to fill the knowledge gap, the current research focuses on the possible use of dark tourism as a teaching tool to improve positive feelings in tourists’ mentality.

Personal statement
The author chose this topic because he believes that more attention and focus should be directed to enhancing the usage of dark tourism as a teaching tool as well as maximizing the positive feelings in Tourists’ mentality regarding visiting dark tourism sites.

Introduction

Dark tourism refers to the visiting of sites that are characterized by sorrow. According to Lennon and Hooper (2016), the concept of dark tourism was introduced by Rojek and advanced by Foley and Lennon related, who referred it to as the exploration of areas where deliberate massacres, crimes, assassinations, and disasters had taken place. Therefore, the trips are associated with sad and dismal occurrences such as death. In most cases, people have novice information about some sites. For instance, areas such as Chernobyl, Hiroshima, Killing Fields, and Concentration Camp Auschwitz are known as places that represent significant historical events through documented data (Hartmann, et al., 2018). Majority of the people have never visited such spots to understand what took place by interacting with the preserved memorial. The written details about the events that happened in such locations can only be imagined. However, through dark tourism, the explorers can fulfill their curiosity because they get an opportunity to interact with the reality. An ideal example of the role of dark tourism in educating the people and imparting positive feelings is the black metal music art. People from United States and European regions associate the black metal performance art with anti-Christian motifs and themes, as well as violence (Podoshen, 2013). A study examining how dark tourism impacts the emotions of people established that when tourists visit the places and observe the participants of the art performances, they understand the foundations of the black metal culture through experience.

Dark tourism may involve visits to memorial sites, nuclear testing calamity spots, mass graves, genocide areas, prison and persecution sites, and the exploration of disaster areas. The phrase “dark tourism” was created by Malcolm Foley and John Lennon in line with the investigation of the conversion of the places where John F. Kennedy lived and died into tourism sites. It is expected that people may tour dark tourism sites to seek cultural heritage and identity. Therefore, thanatourism can be an effective education that helps individuals to experience and understand their traditions and history. One such destination is the August 7th Memorial Park in Nairobi, Kenya. The spot is located at the former US embassy offices and it is associated with the 1998 terrorist attack that caused more than 200 deaths and injuries to thousands of people (Gaya, 2014). Kenyans and United States’ citizens are the main visitors to Park, although people from other regions also tour the area. The tourists have indicated that through such visits, they feel closely connected to the tragedy. Also, some of the Park attractions enhance direct experience of the people’s cultural heritage and identity. Other dark tourism sites are perceived as one’s own heritage and historical experience. For example, national museums and religious sites are used as dark tourism spots and can inflrmation provided by the site managers about the events is a source of knowledge that allows people to reflect on the suffering that the victims may have gone through. Consequently, the tourists understand what happened and may develop positive emotions to forgive the tormentors. For instance, one is filled with grief as they visualize the torture that the victims faced when one visits an area where deliberate massacres were executed. Sorrow is associated with the acceptance of what has happened, especially where loss of lives through torture is involved. After grief, one is expected to be open to forgive those who performed injustices against others. Therefore, if people are allowed to visit dark tourism sites, they will understand the nature of events that took place and have an opportunity to sympathize with the victims, as well as consider forgiving the tormentors. The latter is a positive feeling that is caused by one’s acceptance of and copying to the injustices that were committed against others.

Freedom and Human Right Perspective. Historical sites that represent battlefields for independence or some uprisings against racial injustices can be used as dark tourism sites. Such spots are ideal for tourists because they offer an opportunity of acknowledging the sacrifices made by earlier generations to obtain the current freedom and respect for human rights. For instance, a visit to the areas where the Civil War took place provides the tourists with an opportunity to be grateful to the people who sacrificed their lives to fight for freedom and equality. It is worth noting that without the selfless commitment of the early generations, slavery and racial discrimination could not have been ended. Therefore, dark tourism may be used to change the feelings of the people because it allows them to understand the dedication of their ancestors in following a particular course. An ideal example is the role played by the leaders that fought for the rights of the blacks in the United States of America. Some of them were tortured and executed as they fought for freedom. If a tourist understands the events that took place during that period, they are likely to sympathize with the victims, but be grateful to their sacrifices.

The personal Perspective. Tourism is a form of enhancing personal fulfillment by exploring regions that have a significant or historical meaning. Some tourists visit different areas to celebrate their lives. As people tour places, especially dark tourism sites, they learn new concepts or appreciate historical events. The satisfaction that is associated with the acquisition of new knowledge and understanding of historical events contributes to the development of positive feelings. The tourists develop positive feelings as they engage in various activities and acknowledge the past occurrences. Separately, dark tourism entails the exploration of spots where atrocities took place in the past. As tourists visit the areas, they are informed of the events that led to the occurrence of the calamities.

How Dark Tourism Can Be Employed to Improve Positive Feeling in Tourists’ Mentality

Chang (2017) carried out a study and found out that tourists who visited a dark tourism site were capable of developing positive emotions. The individuals also obtained vast knowledge on geopolitical concepts. The tourist’s empathy was an ideal reaction since it facilitates the formulation of necessary steps that can be taken to prevent future problems. As much as the individuals are expected to develop emphatic feelings and pity the victims, they also acknowledge the shortcomings that contributed to the sufferings. Therefore, they develop positive feelings and change their mentality by substituting blame with preventions strategies. In that case, dark tourism can be used to educate people on how to prevent atrocities in future by avoiding the mistakes that earlier generation committed.

Dark tourism is widely practiced in most parts of the world and it is usually associated with the exploration of areas where disasters have occurred, leading to loss of lives and suffering. As much as tragedies are associated with sorrow and negative feelings, the activity of dark tourism may have a positive impact on the people. The reason for this is that thanatourism may make people change their perception of an event and develop positive feelings. It is through dark tourism that an individual confirms their curiosity since they are allowed to experience the reality. As people visit historical sites and learn about past event and, therefore, they experience and understand their traditions and history. The activity of thanatourism helps people to know the actual events that took place, rather than relying on reported information. The provision of information by tour guides about the events that happened in the past such as mass killings allows people to reflect on the suffering that the victims may have gone through. For instance, tourists acknowledge the sacrifices that earlier generations had to make to arrive at the current state of affairs. This is the reason freedom fighters are respected by the citizens of every country because they sacrificed their lives to push for independence. In addition to celebrating their lives, people learn new concepts and appreciate historical events during thanatourism. One acquires new knowledge and this contributes to the development of positive feelings. The causes of detrimental past events are understood and this contributes to the formulation strategies that can be implemented to prevent future problems. Therefore, dark tourism can be employed as a teaching tool to improve positive feelings in tourists’ mentality.

In consideration of the existing literature, significant research regarding dark tourism has been carried out, but there is limited information on the impacts of this activity on the tourists’ feelings. Therefore, there is a gap in knowledge regarding the effect of thanatourism on the emotions of the tourists. It is appropriate to investigate whether dark tourism can be a learning tool that affects individuals’ emotions and mentality. It should be noted that people have different perceptions on dark tourism since it is believed that the activity has an impact on the tourists’ emotional experience and knowledge. Negative feelings are expected in some experiences such as thanatourism contexts. However, such emotions can contribute to positive outcomes since they influence how people perceive life and this means that dark tourism can be used as a teaching tool to improve positive feelings in tourists’ mentality. Research on the educative capacity of tourism that focuses on the memorization of the dead, atrocities, education, and self-awareness is necessary. Therefore, the current research assesses whether dark tourism is an effective education tool that can help people to fulfill their curiosity and provides an opportunity of reconciling the gaps between imagination and reality.

References

Bilgin, M. H., Danis, H., Demir, E., & Can, U. (2018). Eurasian economic perspectives. Cham: Springer.
Cater, C., Garrod, B., & Low, T. (2015). The Encyclopedia of sustainable tourism. Oxfordshire: CABI .
Chang, L.-H. (2017). Tourists’ perception of dark tourism and its impact on their emotional experience and geopolitical knowledge: A comparative study of local and non-local tourist. Journal of Tourism Research & Hospitality, 6(3), 1-5.
Gaya, E. (2014). Dark tourism visitors seek cultural heritage and identity at dark tourism site. HAAGA-HELIA University of Applied Sciences. Retrieved from www.haaga-helia.fi/en/news/dark-tourism-visitors-seek-cultural-heritage-and-identity-dark-tourism-site#.XcdwTq-_PIU
Hartmann, R., Lennon, J., Reynolds, D. P., Rice, A., Rosenbaum, A. T., & Stone, P. R. (2018). The history of dark tourism. Journal of Tourism History, 10(3),269-295.
Lennon, J. J., & Hooper, G. (2016). Dark tourism: Practice and interpretation. Abingdon: Routledge.
Podoshen, J. S. (2013). Dark tourism motivations: Simulation, emotional contagion and topographic comparison. Tourism Management, 35, 263-271.
Stone, P., & Sharpley, R. (2008). Consuming dark tourism: A thanatological perspective. Annals of Tourism Research, 35(2), 574-595.

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