Three bizarre types of tourism

tombstone tourism headstone image

People who plan their travels around visiting specific graves are also known as “tombstone tourists”.

The tourism industry is booming but it’s not all about beaches and museums. More tourists are selecting their destinations based on a unique, and sometimes slightly darker, set of criteria.

Slum Tourism

Slum tourism involves taking wealthy travelers on tours through poverty stricken neighborhoods, cities, or countries around the world. It is referred to as “favela tourism” in Brazil, “township tourism” in Africa, but known simply as “slum tourism” (a derogatory term to some) in India.

The slum tourism industry, though still controversial, is growing rapidly. A 2010 study showed the main motivation for rich travelers visiting poor areas is cultural curiosity. Travelers may be in search of ‘otherness’ or ‘authenticity’ but others see slum tours as pure exploitation. A columnist for The Times even coined the phrase “poverty porn” in 2009.

Regardless of your opinion of the morality, it doesn’t change the fact that this off-beat industry is growing fast among the wealthy. Luxury travel company Abercrombie & Kent, said these types of travel tours have been increasing in popularity. He says: “Our clients want experiences. They want to acquire knowledge when traveling.”

Cemetery Tourism

Cemetery tourism, also known as graveyard tourism, refers to visiting famous cemeteries or searching out the graves and headstones of famous people.

The thought of basing your travels around visiting cemeteries may seem morbid at first. After a closer look, however, one can see many “tombstone tourists” are history buffs, cultural researchers, or they are tracing their genealogical history.

Alferd Packer, author of Find a Grave, has visited graves of Ernest Hemingway, Al Capone and Karl Marx amongst many others. Another grave hunter, Scott Stanton has spent more than fifteen years visiting over 500 plots to compile information and photographs for his book “The Tombstone Tourist: Musicians”.  The book showcases the likes of punk rocker Joey Ramone in New Jersey, composer Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky in Russia, the Doors legend Jim Morrison in France, and blues guitarist Stevie Ray Vaughan in Texas.

Cemetery tourism proves much more than death and grief-seeking. It can be educational and even inspirational when researching political icons, famous authors, or legendary musicians. If you take this sightseeing route, be sure to pass through Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and admire the Campbell’s soup cans surrounding Andy Warhol’s grave.

Dark Tourism

Dark tourism, according to a recent CNN article, is the name given to travel to mass sites of death, brutality, and terror.

Travel to some of the world’s most important historical points, as one might imagine, can be quite somber. Sites like the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camps in Poland, Khmer Rouge “Killing Fields” of Cambodia, and Robben Island off the Cape Town coast are popular destinations.

Due to the growth of interest, research is also growing in hopes to better understand our human motives regarding the growth of “grief tourism”. The University of Central Lancashire will soon be home to the, first of its kind, the Institute for Dark Tourism Research.

It is difficult to articulate why people are drawn to infamous areas of sadness, poverty, and death. Nonetheless, travelers are fascinated by this trendy form of tourism and willing to spend money to experience something “authentic”.

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