Disaster tourism

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.


Greater New Orleans area after Hurricane Katrina

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.

Communities such 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 organizations, 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.

The Anthropological roots of Disaster Tourism

The term Disaster Tourism is used for leisure travels to zones whipped by natural disasters or traumatic events known as "traumascapes".[1] Some scholars argue that these sites offers a message to visitors and tourists in order for them to interpret their own life.[2] Disaster tourism offers a pedagogical instrument to community to accelerate the time in post recovery process.[3][4] Rodanthi Tzanelli, lecturer at University of Leeds called the attention to the needs to articulate trans-disciplinary research to understand Thana Tourism or Disaster Tourism.[5] Recently, philosopher Maximiliano Korstanje coined the term Thana-Capitalism to refer to a climate of social Darwinism aimed at fostering the Survival of the Strongest. In this climate of struggle, only few win and the rest loses. It explains our obsessions for consumers' news or images related to terrorism attacks, trauma-scapes, disasters and so forth. Korstanje writes that the society of risk has set the pace to a new society Thana Capitalism, where the main commodity is death. Not only we consume death everywhere in cultural entertainment industry, but we reinforce our superiority by witnessing the others' suffering. This allegory is based on the myths of Noah's ark which is considered by Korstanje as the first genocide. In this mythical event God divided the world in two, victims and witnesses. This logic of supremacy of those who live over deads is reinforced by Christ's crucifixion. Nowadays, a new segment of tourists travel to zones of mass death known as areas of Dark or Thana Tourism. Since in secularized societies death is a sign of weakness, consuming the other´s death alludes to hopes for visitors to be in trace towards “the hall of chosen peoples”.[6]

2010 eruption of Eyjafjallajökull

Eyjafjallajökull, in Iceland, began erupting on 20 March 2010.[7][8] 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.[9]

In the wake of the first eruption, tour companies offered trips to see the volcano.[10] 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.[9][11][12]

See also


  1. Sather-Wagstaff, J. (2011). Heritage that hurts: Tourists in the memoryscapes of September 11 (Vol. 4). Left Coast Press.
  2. Stone, P., & Sharpley, R. (2008). Consuming dark tourism: A thanatological perspective. Annals of tourism Research, 35(2), 574-595.
  3. Faulkner, B. (2001). Towards a framework for tourism disaster management. Tourism management, 22(2), 135-147.
  4. Stone, P. R. (2011). Dark tourism: Towards a new post-disciplinary research agenda. International Journal of Tourism Anthropology, 1(3-4), 318-332.
  5. Tzanelli, R. (2016). Thanatourism and Cinematic Representations of Risk: Screening the End of Tourism. Routledge.
  6. Korstanje M. E (2016) The Rise of Thana Capitalism and Tourism, Abingdon, Routledge
  7. "Eldgosið á Fimmvörðuhálsi".
  8. Volcano Erupts Under Eyjafjallajökull, Reykjavík Grapevine, March 21, 2010
  9. 1 2 "Iceland's volcanic ash halts flights in northern Europe". BBC News. 15 April 2010. Retrieved 15 April 2010.
  10. Tom Robbins. The Guardian. Iceland's erupting volcano. Retrieved 2010-04-15.
  11. "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.
  12. "Iceland Volcano Spewing Ash Chokes Europe Air Travel". San Francisco Chronicle. 15 April 2010. Retrieved 15 April 2010.
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