Disaster tourism

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Disaster tourism at Mount Merapi, after the 2010 eruptions

Disaster tourism is the act of traveling to a disaster area as a matter of curiosity.

Hurricane Katrina[edit]

Disaster tourism took hold in the Greater New Orleans Area in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. There are now guided bus tours to neighborhoods that were severely damaged and/or totally destroyed by the flooding.

Some local residents have criticized these tours as unethical, because the tour companies are profiting from the misery of their communities and families. The Army Corps of Engineers has noted that traffic from tour buses and other tourist vehicles have interfered with the movement of trucks and other cleanup equipment on single-lane residential roads. Furthermore, during the first six months after the storm, most of these neighborhoods lacked electricity, phone access, street signs, or access to emergency medical or police assistance. Simply traveling to these neighborhoods was hazardous. Some residents of the Lower Ninth Ward and St. Bernard parishes were less than welcoming to tour buses in their neighborhoods and sometimes outright hostile.

On the other hand, such communities as Gentilly and Lakeview, along the 17th Street Canal, have welcomed organized tour groups as a means to publicize the scale of the destruction and attract more aid to the city. Much of the recovery effort in the New Orleans relies on out-of-state volunteers and donations. Numerous non-profit organization, including Habitat for Humanity International and Catholic Charities, have converged on the city to gut and rebuild homes. There is also a movement by local residents to bring congressmen and other national leaders to the city and view the damage in person, since recovery efforts have been hampered by the failure of many homeowners and businesses to receive claims from their insurance providers.

Maximiliano E Korstanje established a comparison between social Darwinism and disaster tourism (dark tourism). It is often assumed that dark tourism sites exhibit spaces of great pain. To what extent these spaces are conducive to a spectacle of horror, as some sociologists put it, is one of the themes that remain unresolved. Analysts of dark tourism have criticized the fact that suffering is commercialized. Disaster tourism is characterized by a strange fascination or at least curiosity for what specialists call “death spaces”. The term refers to sites where the death of others is commoditized as a tourist product. This serves for the elite to keep the legitimacy over the workforce. In stark opposition to the medieval traveler, Korstanje adds, disaster-site consumers seek to reinforce their life via another’s death. In contrast to what the specialized literature suggests, dark tourism reinforces the modern egocentrism to enjoy “the brother´s tragedy”. By replicating the myth of Noah’s ark, capitalism introduced in people’s lives the necessity of competition as prerequisite for their inclusion in the “league” of the selected few. Life then assumes the function of a great race in which only one can be the winner and the rest will lose. If tragedy confers to survivors the aura of exemplary civilization, it comes at great cost. Happiness for the other´s death is a sign we still remain in contention for the final fight. From “Big Brother” to “The Hunger Games”, the salvation of one by the ruin of the whole has fed into an all-consuming ideology of our modern world. As such, the ethics of dark tourism emulates a new economic form of exploitation that characterizes the capitalism.[1]

2010 eruption of Eyjafjallajökull[edit]

Eyjafjallajökull, on Iceland, began erupting on 20 March 2010.[2][3] At this time, about 500 farmers and their families from the areas of Fljótshlíð, Eyjafjöll, and Landeyjar were evacuated overnight, but allowed to return to their farms and homes after Civil Protection Department risk assessment. On 14 April 2010, Eyjafjallajökull erupted for the second time, requiring 800 people to be evacuated.[4]

Disaster tourism quickly sprang up in the wake of the first eruption, with tour companies offering trips to see the volcano.[5] However, the ash cloud from the second eruption disrupted air traffic over Great Britain and most of northern and western Europe, making it difficult to travel to Iceland even though Iceland's airspace itself remained open throughout.[4][6][7]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Korstanje M 2015 "The Anthropology of Dark Tourism, Exploring the contradiction of Capitalism". CERS Centre for Ethnicity and Racism Study. University of Leeds UK. Working paper 22.]
  2. ^ "Eldgosið á Fimmvörðuhálsi". 
  3. ^ Volcano Erupts Under Eyjafjallajökull Reykjavík Grapevine, March 21, 2010
  4. ^ a b "Iceland's volcanic ash halts flights in northern Europe". BBC News. 15 April 2010. Retrieved 15 April 2010. [dead link]
  5. ^ Tom Robbins. "Iceland's erupting volcano | Travel". The Guardian. http://www.guardian.co.uk/travel/2010/apr/03/iceland-erupting-volcano-hyjafjallajoekull. Retrieved 2010-04-15.
  6. ^ "Cancellations due to volcanic ash in the air". Norwegian Air Shuttle. 15 April 2010. Archived from the original on April 18, 2010. Retrieved 15 April 2010. 
  7. ^ "Iceland Volcano Spewing Ash Chokes Europe Air Travel". San Francisco Chronicle. 15 April 2010. Retrieved 15 April 2010.