One of the increasingly controversial forms of tourism in the modern era is dark tourism. Dark tourism has been defined as travel to sites historically associated with tragedy and death. One form of dark tourism is war tourism. There are two different types of war tourism; the first involves visiting a place that was devastated by war many years prior. These places often have memorials or war museums which are popular attractions. The other type it sees is tourists going into current war zones. While the first type is much more common, the second is increasing in popularity and has become a source of controversy.
Pros and Cons
Visiting places that were once torn apart by war has both positive and negative consequences. For some people, seeing memorials or locations where hundreds or even thousands of people were killed, or other atrocious acts were committed, can be too difficult and disturbing.
There are some people who even believe it is disrespectful to tour these places. Still, others claim the history is important, and it offers lessons in human nature at extreme levels, which people can learn and benefit from. Visiting places that are currently in conflict is obviously extremely dangerous, and even if extreme caution is taken, things can still go horribly wrong. It can be very rewarding, however, to interact with people and families who are going through this conflict and help learn from their experiences.
One of the most popular destinations for war tourists is Srebrenica in Bosnia, where in 1995 over 8,000 Bosnian Muslims were murdered. There is a very popular memorial and museum located there. Many people also visit Vietnam to see the National Defense Shooting Range. This place actually allows you to fire bullets from the AK-47s that the Vietnamese used against the United States in the Vietnam War. And, perhaps most famous, the concentration camps in Germany (like Auschwitz) attract hundreds of thousands of visitors each year.
The Road Less Travelled
For some tourists, visiting memorials or places where wars happened years ago isn’t enough. For them, they prefer to visit current conflict zones. Some areas are considered too dangerous to visit, such as Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Iraq, but there are some tour groups out there that are willing to take people through these countries. Some countries that attract this type of tourism prefer to bring tourists to more peaceful sights, away from where the conflict is (or was), to help distance themselves from the violence. At the moment, the Gaza Strip is a destination that these kinds of tourists may be looking to visit, but it is currently classified as too dangerous to visit.
Costs and Savings
The tour groups to conflict zones tend to be very small (around 8 to 10 people) and are usually expensive. For a nine-day trip to Israel and Palestine, the price is around $5,000 per person (not including airfare). This trip is advertised as a “walk through Bibleland”, and the tour includes visiting Bethlehem, Jerusalem, and the Dead Sea. The Israel-Palestine conflict isn’t mentioned in the description, but it is likely to see some fallout from the conflict. There are also tours to Afghanistan and Iraq available, but these too are very costly.