How do you feel about disaster tourism? Tasteless gawking? Revenue source for recovering areas? Somewhere in between? This week, Fox News ran a piece about a new travel trend: disaster tourism. It seems travelers are interested in visiting disaster sites, from tornado-ravaged New Orleans to the 9/11 Memorial in New York City. Fox provides a Top 7 list.
The 9/11 Memorial was created with the knowledge that it would be a destination and a place to show respect for the victims and responders. In fact, within months of opening in 2011, it had been visited by millions. But what about places like New Orleans?
Visitors must be appropriate and sensitive, Kelly Schulz, spokesperson for the New Orleans Convention and Visitors Bureau, told Fox, adding that her family home of 30 years was devastated in the flooding that followed Hurricane Katrina, in 2005. “I think the most important thing is to approach the situation and the local people with respect,” she said.
Why the fascination? “A lot of people feel very sympathetic to victims of disasters, yet feel incapable of helping or supporting people who have suffered,” Dr. Michael Brein, a travel psychologist and author, told Fox. “To some extent, when you go to revisit the scene of a disaster, you’re paying homage, expressing sympathy with what has happened. Some of us feel, if we can revisit the scene of these disaster areas, we can maybe get a more genuine, more hands on, more sensory input of what has happened,” he said.
Personally, I found a Post-Katrina trip (just months after the flooding) to be sobering and heart-wrenching. But it was also educational, and I think there’s an argument to be made for BC professionals (especially those who haven’t been on the front lines of a response and recovery) to get a feel for the magnitude of such an impact as well as the aftermath. Your thoughts?