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Recovery of a destination's public tragedy

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    People are attracted to tragedies, death and disasters, which is why dark tourism became to a big niche in the tourism industry (Hartmann, 2013). Heritage sites, which have a debated history are often visited by tourists and seen as an “attraction” of a destination (ibid). However, for the community of a destination, which had to deal with a natural or other catastrophe, it is hard to be only and forever defined by the incident. While many things should never be forgotten, it is hard or moreover impossible for a destination to recover from a tragedy or historical influence. Several destinations still suffer from their history (Kropf and Jones, 2014). A country like Germany will always have to deal with the image of the “Nazis” and their horrible doings. As stated by Hartmann (2013) “The study of holocaust tourism emphasizes the meaning, value and extent of visits to sites that honour victims of Nazi Germany.” Especially concentration camps play one of the biggest roles in the history of this time. Clearly, these places cannot be shut down or reused, due to the fact that it is more than unethical and disrespectful. Nevertheless, even though it should never be forgotten or forgiven what happened during that time in these camps, it is still doubtable if the country and its inhabitants will ever be able to recover from these incidents and remove the image of the Nazis (ibid).

    When in 1999 one of the first and biggest shootings at the US high school, Columbine high school in Littleton happened, no one had ever been aware of it, which made it even more dramatic and harder to deal with. Due to the direct media attention, it was known everywhere in the world within a short period of time. Therefore, the community was unable to grief and deal with it first, before it became public. Until nowadays, Littleton and the Columbine high school are known as the “first” school, which ever had a shooting. Due to a high pressure of national and international media, the community of Littleton was not able to process the happening and is still seen as “horrible” when shrines for the victims and the shooters were set up (Kropf and Jones, 2014).

    All in all, not just a community suffers from a public tragedy but also a destination, as it will never be known for anything else again. Even though, things are in the past and the people have moved on, it is unethical and impossible for a destination to go back and to forget about incidents, even though it would be necessary sometimes.


    Written by Amelie Rüther




    Kropf, N. and Jones, B. (2014) When Public Tragedies Happen: Community Practice Approaches in Grief, Loss and Recovery. Journal of Community Practice, Vol. 22 (3), pp. 281-298


    Hartmann, R. (2014) Dark tourism, thanatourism, and dissonance in heritage tourism management: new directions in contemporary tourism research, Journal of Heritage Tourism, Vol. 9 (2), pp. 166-182


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