BBC 6 minute English-What is dark tourism

BBC 6 minute English-What is dark tourism

BBC 6 minute English-What is dark tourism


Transcript of the podcast

NB: This is not a word for word transcript

Rob: Welcome to 6 Minute English. I’m Rob

Neil: And I’m Neil. Hello

Rob: Today we’re talking about an unusual type of tourism. Tourism is the business of providing services such as transport, places to stay, or entertainment for people who are on holiday

Neil: But instead of providing sunny holidays in a nice hotel by the sea – this is where tourists travel to sites of death, brutality and terror. It’s being called ‘dark tourism’. Rob, have you ever been to any dark tourist destination – or place

Rob: Yes. I’ve visited Auschwitz in Poland – a fascinating trip to an obviously depressing place. And next month I’m planning to go to Chernobyl – the site of a catastrophic nuclear accident in 1986

Neil: So these are not your typical sightseeing trips but a visit to places that make you curious because of their significance – their importance – in history

Rob: Exactly. We’ll talk more about this soon but not before I set you today’s question. Robben Island in South Africa is one dark tourism destination. It’s where Nelson Mandela was imprisoned for 18 years. Do you know in which year it finally closed as a prison

a) 1991

b) 1996

c) 1999

Neil: I don’t know but I’m going to guess a) 1991 because I think he was released in 1989 and surely they would have shut it down pretty quickly after that

Rob: I’ll reveal the answer later. So let’s talk more about ‘dark tourism’. The word ‘dark’ is used here because it relates to places that are connected with bad or sinister things or things that could be considered morally wrong

Neil: It’s strange to want to visit places like these. There is what we call a morbid fascination – that’s showing an interest in things connected with death and destruction. And these kinds of trips are on the increase

Rob: Yes, there are organised tours to places like Ground Zero in New York, the killing fields in Cambodia and the nuclear power station in Chernobyl

Neil: And there are the battlefields of World War I and II – and the top security prison of Alcatraz

Rob: There are also plans to turn the disaster site of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in Japan into a tourist destination – once the radiation is reduced

Neil: But why do people want to visit these macabre sites? Well I mentioned curiosity and a chance to learn about history – but sometimes people just feel compelled to visit them

Rob: But what about the ethics of dark tourism – is it wrong to make this trip? Are we not just exploiting – making money or cashing in on someone’s suffering

Neil: Doctor Phillip Stone is an expert in this subject. He’s director of the Institute for Dark Tourism Research. He says this type of tourism isn’t new – people have been visiting these types of places for years. He says it’s always been there

Doctor Phillip Stone, Director of the Institute for Dark Tourism Research

It’s not new in the sense that we are fascinated by other death and people’s suffering. But it’s how it’s packaged up by the tourist industry

Rob: So he says dark tourism isn’t new. In fact a medieval execution was an early form of dark tourism. Maybe it’s just human nature that draws us to these places? Doctor Stone says it’s all about how these dark trips are packaged. So it depends how they are sold and how tasteful they are – are they sensitive to the horrors of what has taken place

Neil: Yes, being able to walk around a historic site or visit a museum is one thing but how about staying in a former prison in Latvia and paying to be treated like a prisoner? Or how about crawling around Vietnamese war tunnels whilst people fire guns outside

Rob: Maybe that is taking the experience too far. Doctor Stone says there is a “blurred line between memorialisation and tourism”. He means it is hard to separate going to remember an event and the people who’ve died with visiting somewhere as part of a holiday

Neil: Another issue when visiting these places is how you remember your visit – you must be respectful – perhaps taking photos, yes, but should you take a ‘selfie’? And should you buy a souvenir or send a postcard home

Rob: Well you certainly wouldn’t write on your postcard ‘wish you were here’. Anyway, let’s now reveal the answer to the question I set you earlier

Neil: Yes, this was about the former prison on Robben Island which is now a popular destination for dark tourism

Rob: I asked you when it finally closed as a prison. Was it in

a) 1991

b) 1996

c) 1999

Neil: I said 1991

Rob: And you were wrong actually. It was in 1996. About 350,000 people now visit the site every year – which shows how much interest there is in a place that you would have once never wanted to go near. Is it somewhere you would like to visit Neil

Neil: I’m not sure about dark tourism to be honest

Rob: Ok Neil, could you remind us of some of the vocabulary we’ve heard today

Neil: Yes, we heard

tourism depressing catastrophic curious morally wrong morbid fascination macabre compelled ethics exploiting human nature tasteful memorialisation respectful

Rob: Thanks. We hope you’ve enjoyed today’s programme. Please join us again soon for 6 Minute English from BBC Learning English

Both: Bye

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