This exploratory study investigates contested narratives of dark tourists by focusing on their travel motivations and multi- dimensional visitor experiences in the context of the Hanwang Earthquake Memorial Park, the intersections of a ghost industrial town and seismic memorials arising from the great Wenchuan earthquake of 2008. The study employed participant observation and semi-structured interview in a progressive and sequential manner to collect qualitative data from Chinese visitors on the site. Using NVivo 10, the analysis revealed that it was both the death and suffering of people and destruction and reconstruction of place—the abandoned industrial town and the seismic memorials—that attract visitors to come, distinguishing itself from other dark tourism settings that may be valued for leisure activity or special historical interest. The obligation of commemoration was mixed with curiosity, together with social needs, perceived prestigious, family, and education that motivate people to visit. The site offered visitors an authentic arena for critical thoughts, the recall of tragedy, and self-reflection; help reconcile the imagined landscapes with reality; and allowed the self to express scares and sympathy as well as gratification and satisfaction so as to construct contemporary ontological meanings of mortality as reflected in either cognitive or affective experience.
Geoheritage – Springer Journals
Published: May 31, 2018
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