Are planners behind the curve on dark tourism?

C&IT's Incentives Report examines whether planners are tapping into a new wave of interest in historical destinations.

Searches for the phrase ‘dark tourism’ have rocketed in recent times, according to a recent report about popular destinations.

After a show focused on the sector was aired on Netflix, there was an 80% rise in searches for such destinations in 2018, says flight booking platform Kiwi.com.

Chernobyl was the most searched for dark tourist destination in 2018, with a 1,057% surge in enquiries to the disaster zone since 2016. Other dark tourism locations growing in popularity since 2016 include the Killing Fields (465%), Hiroshima (263%), and Auschwitz (142%).

"Dark tourism remains a growing phenomenon across many countries in Europe and the UK has seen a similar increase," a Kiwi.com spokesperson said. 

"Since 2018 and following the release of The Dark Tourist show on Netflix, Kiwi.com has reported an 80% increase in flight searches to destinations associated with the darker side of life. For how long this will last, we're unsure, but it still seems to be an interest on the rise."

And as part of the C&IT’s State Of the Industry: Incentives Report, event planners in the sector were asked if they had received requests for dark tourism incentives in the past year.

Hiroshima, Chernobyl, The Killing fields in Cambodia were suggested as examples of possible destinations. 

And despite the apparent surge of interest among holidaymakers, just one in six respondents in the survey said they received requests for the trend in 2018.

Destinations asked for by clients included Warsaw, Auschwitz and the salt mines in Poland, the Ho Chi Minh trail in Vietnam, the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum and World War battlefield visits in Northern France. 

One planner, speaking about Japan, said they included a trip to Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum, adding that it's "such an important part of the history that it is almost impossible to not include a visit there."

But many planners said there had been no requests for dark tourism in 2018, with some saying that such destinations were just not compatible with the idea of an incentive trip.

"No, it isn't really the incentive atmosphere unless it really is an iconic location, so I wouldn't suggest this. We want the trip to only have happy memories," one event planner said.

It appeared that not everyone had heard of dark tourism. One event planner, when asked if they would ever consider such a trip said: "Never ever. I actually didn't know what this was until the C&IT Agency Forum."

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