Graveyard tourism

Friday, 20 September 2019

Graveyard tourism, in the academic and educational touristic literature, is considered part of the wider phenomenon called dark tourism, as for the dereliction tourism. Like this last one, also the graveyard tourism brings with it some inevitable ethical implications.

Whether we talk about graveyards, ghost towns, memorials, favelas and other destinations related to suffering, tragedies, wars, pain, crimes, poverty or neglect, the basic question is always the same: is it moral to promote its touristic traffic? Each of us will give our answer.

It’s undeniable that the fascination for the destinations that recall the themes explained above is strong and increasingly common. This fascination has leaded humanity since time immemorial; it’s the classification of the trips towards these destinations as dark tourism that is recent.

Thanks to your added value, you will be able to choose to propose or not some experiences of graveyard tourism. You will also be able to recommend to your clients about the behaviour to have, that must be respectful and appropriate according to the social and cultural context.

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In the nineteenth century, in particular in the USA, people went to graveyards also to have picnics and relax, because there were not public parks yet. This tradition disappeared almost everywhere, exception for some communities that adopt it as a ritual. One of them is the Italian-Albanian community of San Demetrio Corone, in province of Cosenza (Calabria, Italy): during All Soul’s Day, after the procession, people consume food and drinks next to the tombs of the dead.

Today, except for some communities that do it as a ceremonial, it’s almost unthinkable to feast in graveyards, even if we will see later that this isn’t true. However, it’s not unthinkable that the graveyards could be touristic attractions that move «the mix, that exists only there, between culture and architecture, visits to historic characters and inner search»*.

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Visit a graveyard could be the only aim of the trip or part of a bigger tour, so it could be a primary or a secondary reason to travel. The graveyard tourism could be divided in subgroups, according to the reason of the visit**:

  • Ancestral – to visit the tombs of relatives (prominent in Countries that suffered diaspora)
  • Cultural – to visit graveyards as if they were open-air museums, tombs of famous poets, writers, actors, scientists, musicians
  • National/Patriotic – to visit the memorials
  • Natural – to visit the graveyards to admire the arboretum
  • Politic – to visit the tombs of kings, presidents, first ministers and political personalities
  • Religious – to visit the tombs with religious value

Concerts, conferences, dance and music spectacles, film showings and other events are organized in graveyards. In the Hollywood Forever Cemetery in Los Angeles, for example, you can assist to classic cinema films showings and take part to picnics (that’s why we wrote above “it’s almost unthinkable to feast in graveyards”).

There are also many greaveyards that propose walking tours, biking tours, bus tours and by night, with the light of a lantern. Some graveyards are used also for shooting films

There are also associations that deals with the organisation, the conservation, the promotion and the financing of graveyards. Between these, there is the Association of Significant Cemeteries in Europe (ASCE), a European network of public and private entities active in the cure of the European graveyards that are the most interesting for artistic or historic reasons.

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Through the most famous and most visited graveyards in the world, we report you:

  • Père-Lachaise, Paris
  • Novodevičij, Moscow
  • La Recoleta, Buenos Aires
  • Highgate, London
  • St. Louis Cemetery 1st, New Orleans
  • Forest Lawn Memorial Park, Glendale
  • Hollywood Forever, Los Angeles

Through the most famous and most visited memorials in the world, we report you:

  • Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington County
  • Vietnam Veterans Memorial, Washington D.C.
  • Japanese American Memorial to Patriotism During World War II, Washington D.C.
  • Piskaryovskoye Piskariovskoye Memorial Cemetery, Saint Petersburg
  • Rossoshki Military Memorial Cemetery, Volgograd
  • USS Arizona Memorial, Honolulu
  • Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park, Hiroshima
  • Yad Vashem, Jerusalem
  • Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, Berlin

Enjoy your work with 6tour!

*Cimiteri e Turismo. Potenzialità e Valorizzazione di un fenomeno in crescita

Privitera Donatella Stefania, in_bo (number 10 – december 2016)

**Cemeteries as tourist attraction

Amelia Tomašević, VERN University of Applied Scieneces, Zagreb

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