Dark tourism is a type of niche tourism in which tourists specifically target destinations or exhibitions highlighting death, morbid suffering or atrocities. Also called black tourism for its emphasis on the nefarious or oppressive aspects of historical events or places, dark tourism is one of the many types of tourism that has arisen in the development of modern niche tourism. Examples of popular dark tourist sites include the Toul Sleng Killing Fields in Cambodia that are filled with the skulls of tortured and executed political prisoners, the London Dungeon in England that highlights medieval torture implements and skeletal remains of hapless victims, and the Ukraine's ghostly Zone of Alienation in Chernobyl, site of the 1986 nuclear reactor disaster.
Some academics interpret dark tourism under more general auspices and do not measure intent in defining dark tourism. For example, some may classify World War II European concentration camps or haunted houses as dark tourist attractions, as these exhibits emphasize the tragic or frightening moments of human history. Other academics make a clear distinction between dark tourism and other types of adjectival tourism. They narrow the definition to exclusively include exhibits and attractions solely associated with the gruesome or morbid historical events or exhibits that strongly appeal to the darker, curious side of human nature.
Most definitely, dark tourism in its truest form generally differs from other types of special interest tourism, such as war tourism or grief tourism. Many tourists visit war memorials to pay respects to veterans or to remember the honorable sacrifices made on a battlefield. This type of visitation is generally not considered "dark." Dark tourism relates specifically to the act of traveling for the entertainment value of a morbid interest in death, suffering and disasters.
The word tourism was invented in 1811, although people have traveled to view historic sites of interest for thousands of years. Countless pilgrims have visited holy sites, such as the tomb of Jesus, or locations of momentous battles to pay their respects or honor, yet these people cannot necessarily be considered "dark" tourists. Tourism is a booming business for many countries, and the modern development and marketing of niche tourism is very lucrative. Dark tourism and other types of adjectival tourism appeal to people who may otherwise have little interest in general history or homage.