While touring new places, we are exposed to new sights, new foods, new arts, and new civilizations. The cultural impact of tourism as an event is undeniable, but let’s not underestimate the significance of tourism in economic terms, since it is very important for the economy and a sector that can definitely create growth prospects and new positions of work. With $1trillion spent by 1 billion tourists every year on a global basis we should not only focus on its cultural impact but on what it literally has become during the last few decades – a business industry. But what happens when tourism rises to another level and seek more than the ordinary things the “pop-culture” tourism of our times requests? What happens when tourism becomes another field of human activity where the alternative view on it stimulates the human curiosity and interest?
This is a type of tourism that sprang up after the dawn of the Atomic Era. Curious tourists fascinated with the Atomic Era can visit places important to the history of the Atomic Age, places where significant incidents related to atomic power took place. There are museums that specialize in atomic weapons, but naturally the most visited sites are the actual places where atomic bombs were dropped or detonated. Needless to say, that means that Hiroshima and Nagasaki are the two most visited places when it comes to atomic tourism, while you can learn every detail about the Chernobyl Nuclear accident and its effect on those who lived and worked around the area of the Chernobyl Museum in Kiev which is arguably the most visited museum of this kind of tourism. Before you decide to visit however, it will be wise to arrange for a translator or a local guide since pretty much all of the exhibits are in Russian.
Despite the astonishing success of The Lord of the Rings books and films, when we first heard about this specific type of tourism, we didn’t know what to think. Sure, Lord of the Rings is a cultural and pop phenomenon with millions of fans and fanatics all over the world, but we could never imagine that it would become the reason for travelling and tourism. Tolkien tourism is about two things: on the one hand, dedicated and hardcore fan visits to the Lord of the Rings fictional “planet;” and on the other hand, visits to every site of importance mentioned in the films or books. New Zealand is the ultimate country of attraction because it was the main location of the film series by Peter Jackson. The two British hot spots for hardcore fan tourism are Oxford and Birmingham, where Tolkien tourists can contact the Tolkien Society and take in anything from artifacts to art and from libraries to pubs – anything, as long as it’s related to Tolkien in any possible way.
Dark tourism revolves around anything that has to do with death, disaster, tragedy, and in a few cases, even the afterlife. The locations where multiple deaths took place are high on the agenda of the tourists who follow this kind of tourism, and the historical value of the places where deaths occurred seems to matter a lot as well. Sites where mass suicides took place – and various castles, for some reason — seem to be among the most favored spots. One of the most visited sites around the world is Romania’s Poenari Castle, where Dracula lived – and killed.
Nowadays the destinations for drug tourism are pretty well established — even mainstream. For personal use and the fun of the thing, the capital of drug tourism is Amsterdam in the Netherlands, where every year the infamous Dutch Cannabis Cafés attract a couple of million young people from around the world. If the thing is strictly about business and trade, Colombia comes to mind first. A highly popular destination, especially back in the 90s, used to be Goa in India, where the excessive use of drugs like ecstasy at the famous rave parties was a pop phenomenon. Despite the decline of this kind of tourism, India is still famous for drug tourism, especially to a place called Malana, where good quality Indian hashish is produced in large quantities.
Ghetto tourism is probably the newest on this list — the term was used for the first time back in the mid-2000s. With the spread of hip-hop culture over the past fifteen years, more and more people became curious about the places where this specific genre of music and lifestyle began. In the past few years, the American ghettos of Detroit, New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles have become tourist spots, mostly because of young people interested in this specific lifestyle, graffiti, music, and clothing. At one time, the highlight of this kind of tourism used to be Real Bronx Tours, bus rides conducting tourists through some of the most notorious ghettos of New York City. But unfortunately for the visitors, Real Bronx Tours ended just this year after local authorities and neighborhood residents complained of feeling insulted by the way their neighborhoods were portrayed.
Well, the name says it all in this case, and in all honesty you probably can’t get a creepier or more dangerous type of tourism than this. Shark tourism is actually a subgenre of another type of tourism – eco-tourism. It appeals to all these people who love sharks and their bloody jaws; anything related to the Great White shark (and other less harmful sharks) is what’s on offer in these touristic experience. Experienced divers and protective cages are must-haves for this adventurous kind of tourism. Despite the high professionalism and excellent organization of the professionals who operate shark tours, there have been a few accidents, and even some fatalities.
Religious tourism is not new; it’s been practiced in various forms (such as pilgrimages) for centuries, and this new kind of religious tourism has been for years now one of the most popular types, but once you learn more about it you will understand why only Muslims want to join in. How would it sound to you if you had to spend your vacations without drinking any alcohol, without having any sex, and having to swim in separate swimming pools for men and women? Believe or not, that’s what Halal tourism offers, and of course if you like pork or if you’re gay, don’t even think about it; you could be killed for your “sinful preferences.” However, this specific type of tourism is kind of popular in specific Islamic nations such as Morocco and Turkey, which try to attract more and more Muslim tourists every year. We wish we could say that Muslims know better, but we’re afraid that we can’t say any such thing about Halal tourism.
Sometimes this is referred to as “suicide tourism,” and not unfairly so. The significant difference between this type of tourism and Atomic or Dark tourism is that in this case, the tourist visits an active war zone to experience what it’s like to be in the middle of bombs, bullets, and grenades. War tourists are often extreme sports lovers as well, and generally they are after adventures that give them big shots of adrenaline. There was a record high number of war tourists during the war in Afghanistan – as well as reported cases of visitors who lost their lives. For the more peaceful, less danger-seeking war tourists, there are groups that specialize in visiting inactive war zones, where things can be a little more relaxing for everybody involved.
Maybe some will rush to connect this specific type of tourism with sex tourism, but they better think twice. Fertility tourism – or reproductive tourism, as it is also called – is completely legal and innocent. For that matter, it can be considered a subset of what is known as medical tourism. Thousands of couples every year, most from advanced countries, travel to find the perfect sperm donor. This type of tourism exists because some nations have liberal legal regulations about sperm donation or lower costs for the whole procedure, since costs differ dramatically from country to country. Various statistical studies seem to suggest that the countries populated by tall, blond, blue-eyed men are strongly favored over nations that don’t have large numbers of men like this. Looks matter, after all.
Without a doubt this is the most macabre type of tourism we could ever imagine, and unfortunately, in most cases, for these “holidays,” the airplane ticket is one way with no return. As the title suggests, suicide tourism is related to suicide and euthanasia. Most people who embark on these tours want to bring their lives to an end. Usually they are either people with physical disabilities or patients suffering from emotional problems such as clinical depression. Suicide tourism is mostly organized for large groups of people seeking destinations where euthanasia is permitted. The main goal of some people on suicide tours is to achieve the decriminalization of euthanasia in countries around the world, but there are also smaller groups seeking ideal scenic sites as places to end their lives. In the US, the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco is one of the most popular.