Tourism development and contested communities : the issue of Belfast, Northern Ireland

Causevic, S. and Lynch, P.A. (2008) Tourism development and contested communities : the issue of Belfast, Northern Ireland. EspacesTemps. ISSN 1777-5477

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Dark tourism is defined as "visitation to places where tragedies or historically noteworthy death has occurred and that continue to impact our lives" Tarlow, 2005:48). Inherently, dark tourism conceptualises the consequence of a long-term conflict. This paper addresses the area of dark tourism in this context, an area which has received relatively little attention by scholars so far, focusing on its relevance to social reconcilation and urban regeneration in a re-emerging tourism economy in Belfast, Northern Ireland. The fieldwork follows a qualitative methodological approach required in order to gather complex information concerning the issue of dark tourism in a post-conflict society. It involves in-depth interviews with tourism decison makers and tour providers as well as participant observation of the tours and sites in Northern Ireland. Dark tourism, as an academic concept ascription rarely enjoys suport from governing bodies, official tourism associations and local communities in each specific society. This research points to a polarised understanding of the concept between academic and developed socities on one side, and tourism destination stakeholders on the other, who assess the concept as being detrimental in the process of destination-image-formation which tends to occur after a politcal conflict. Exluding a small niche segnment, this study finds that, in actual fact, dark tourism is not a motivator for visiting the destinations. Yet once tourist are there, most of them would pay a visit to dark tourism sites. Therefore, dark tourism is not a part of the process of image-formation after a conflict. The study instead suggests "phoenix tourism" as an image formation tool, going on to argue that phoenix tourism is not a tourism niche by itself. Phoenix tourism signifies a process of rebuilding, remaking and reconciliation in a post-conflict setting with dark tourism forming a part of that process.