PurposeThe Jonestown massacre of 1978 was the largest such event in modern history; it assumes the status of a prototype in many discussions of cult dynamics and mass suicide. This paper aims to make the case that Jonestown should be memorialised and made into a dark tourism attraction.Design/methodology/approachThis paper is principally the outcome of secondary research conducted over a number of years on the theme of dark tourism. The paper also benefited from direct interviews and conversations with political and ex-military personnel in Guyana who were in some way involved with Jonestown.FindingsThe research establishes that Jonestown remains a matter of great sensitivity and even national embarrassment, with many in the tourism sector reluctant to highlight what they regard as a very negative association, in the market, of Guyana with Jonestown and Jonestown only.Practical implicationsExpressed in context, the paper discusses the place of Jonestown in dark tourism and proposes an operational formula by which the semiotic of Jonestown, as contained in the tourist narrative, transforms tourism into catharsis.Originality/valueFor the author, Jonestown is tourism-imperative because not much longer after that apocalyptic event, the “Jonestown massacre” became a reference in the discourse on dark tourism. Jonestown is too large and archetypal an event to escape research and discussion of its place in the realm of dark tourism. This paper therefore explores, from both theoretical and policy perspectives, the ways in which the narratives of dark tourism can serve to expiate guilt by confronting it and therefore still deserve a place in the tourism imaginary of 2025. As such, the paper should be of value to not only scholars and researchers but also those engaged in tourism planning and destination management.
Worldwide Hospitality and Tourism Themes – Emerald Publishing
Published: Oct 8, 2018