Young tourists’ experiences at dark tourism sites: Towards a conceptual framework

Kerr, Mary Margaret, Stone, Philip orcid iconORCID: 0000-0002-9632-1364 and Price, Rebecca H (2021) Young tourists’ experiences at dark tourism sites: Towards a conceptual framework. Tourist Studies, 21 (2). pp. 198-218. ISSN 1468-7976

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While dark tourism aimed at adults reminds them of past tragic fights, faults and follies, thousands of children and youth also consume inherent memorial messages at dark tourism sites. This paper addresses these unnoticed childhood encounters, about which scholarly discourse remains conspicuously silent. At present, dark tourism research focuses almost exclusively on adults and does not adequately explain young tourists’ experiences. How children experience dark tourism sites has much to do with their understanding of death. Because younger children may not possess an adult-like knowledge of death, they are unable to experience a site as dark. Other theoretical disparities include children’s limited agency in choosing their destinations and their unique and often playful exploration of dark places. To address the inadequacy of current dark tourism conceptualisations, we propose a new framework to encourage scholarly interrogation of children’s experiences at dark tourism sites. Drawing from multiple sources including archival studies and original research with youth, we offer a rationale for considering four major, intersecting influences on a young tourist’s experience: understanding of death, visit preparation (at home or in school), site and interpretation features and dynamics of the specific visit (e.g. group membership, norms and itinerary). Ultimately, this paper uncovers potential research avenues to bring children’s perspectives and experiences to the core of dark tourism research.

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