Next year the Ukraine will offer tours around the sealed zone that surrounds the reactor in Chernobyl.
The tours will coincide with the 25th anniversary of the ‘Chernobyl Disaster’, that sent radiation across parts of Europe. The tour is educational, explaining why the accident happened and the consequences. It has the seal of approval of the United Nations.
Dark tourism is all about destinations that tackle deaths, disasters and tragedies. It is a particularly difficult area of tourism to develop. Destination managers have to grapple with moral and ethical issues and understand complex visitor motivations. Dark tourism is arguably where tragedy and time meet and the longer the passing of time the easier it becomes to be objective about the subject matter. However, in a fast moving world, that time is constantly contracting. You can already visit Ground Zero and go ‘sightseeing’ in the ruins of New Orleans for example.
Of course dark tourism is a legitimate area to develop and arguably all leisure travel is about curiosity and emotion of some sort. However it does strike me that as an emerging destination, the Ukraine may be better focusing its promotion on some of its more conventional offers. It is home to several spectacular heritage cities including Kiev and the beautiful Crimean peninsula with the city of Yalta and the Black Sea resorts. Most people in western Europe have a poor understanding of what the Ukraine has to offer and unfortunately promoting tours of Chernobyl, however educational, are unlikely to help put the country on the ‘must see’ destination list of most visitors.