Friday, June 15, 2012
Chernobyl Diaries shines light on dark tourism
Source = e-Travel Blackboard: M.H.
Tourists have long been drawn to places that hold historical significance for all of the wrong reasons. Think the concentration camps of Nazi Germany, which welcome millions of visitors from around the world each year; or the partially buried city of Pompeii, which draws more than two million tourists annually to its ruins; or more recently, Ground Zero in New York. The list goes on.
It is hardly surprising then that the recent film ¡®Chernobyl Diaries¡¯ has drawn attention to a destination that would have once been at the bottom of most sightseers¡¯ bucket lists.
Although the film¡¯s storyline is fictitious - six ¡®extreme¡¯ tourists to the city of Pripyat, a ghost town once home to the workers of the Chernobyl nuclear reactor, are set upon by a group of ¡®mutants¡¯ - the premise of people traveling to visit the site of the 1986 nuclear disaster is not.
In fact, interest in traveling to the Chernobyl ¡®exclusion zone¡¯, a 30-mile radius space that since last year had been cut-off from visitation, has now risen to the point where the Ukrainian Government has officially opened tours to groups.
Speaking to the Associated Press before the commencement of state-sanctioned tours, Ukrainian Government Emergency Situation Ministry spokesperson Yulia Yershova said that experts were developing tour routes that were medically safe and informative.
¡°There are things to see there if one follows the official route and doesn't stray away from the group,¡± she said.
¡°Though it is a very sad story."
According to Ms Yershova, prior to the commencement of official tours to Chernobyl and its surrounding areas, around 6,000 ¡®illegal¡¯ travelers visited the region annually, which begs the question: why do tourists flock to sites of great disaster?
According to Philip Stone, executive director of the first-of-its-kind and newly opened Institute for Dark Tourism Research in the UK, dark tourism ¡°brings death back into the public domain¡±.
¡°Because death is under a medical gaze, it¡¯s been privatized,¡± he told the UK¡¯s IBTimes.
¡°We reconnect with mortality through the tourism.¡±
What dark tourism destinations have you visited? Would you consider traveling to Chernobyl?