Staging, experiences and outcomes in dark tourism settings

Rights statement
Awarding institution
  • University of Strathclyde
Date of award
  • 2022
Thesis identifier
  • T16262
Person Identifier (Local)
  • 201562353
Qualification Level
Qualification Name
Department, School or Faculty
  • An increasingly popular form of tourism involves visits to sites of death and suffering, so-called ‘dark tourism’. Studies have highlighted the growing fascination with this topic; however, current research on dark tourism has paid limited attention to visitor experiences and consequences. Moreover, issues relating to design and marketing, which can shape visitors’ experiences, are underexplored. Drawing on dark tourism literature and the experience economy framework, this thesis explores the relationship between staging, experience and outcomes in dark tourism settings. This is an exploratory study building on a qualitative research strategy using a netnographic approach. The data collected comprise 3680 online reviews posted on TripAdvisor websites. The five battlefield sites reviewed are (1) 1066 Battle of Hastings Abbey and Battlefield, (2) Bosworth Battlefield Heritage Centre & Country Park, (3) Culloden Battlefield, (4) Gettysburg National Military Park, and (5) Omaha Beach and Omaha Beach Memorial Museum. The findings reveal various experience staging elements: theatrical (theme, staff, design and landscape) and functional (activities and exhibitions, visitor guidance, facilities); seven forms of experiences (physical, cognitive, flow, emotional, introspective, relational and paranormal); and three outcomes (evaluation, recollection and consequentiality). The associations among these three constructs result in a conceptual model of dark experience. Furthermore, this study suggests that the location authenticity and timescale of the event are influential factors in the dark experience model. This research enhances the theoretical underpinning of dark tourism by conceptualising a model of dark experiences via identifying the relationship between staging and experiences and outcomes. The identification of visitor experiences and relationship to outcome components describe the experience consumption in which visitors consume ‘dark’ destinations, rather than a more generic description of the visitor experience. These findings contribute by demonstrating the characteristics of experience consumption in dark tourism settings. To influence prospective visitors and to maintain visitor interests in the destination, understanding visitor experiences is critical for destination managers. This model offers a comprehensive insight into the holistic view of dark experience from visitor perspectives. Previous research has focused on some dimensions of experience offerings. The second contribution of this thesis is that it is one of the first studies that fully integrates the components of experience staging in a dark tourism context. Identifying the sets of determinants that capture the uniqueness of the destination characteristics significant to visitors could provide an improved experience for future visitors. The findings contribute to the experience economy framework by demonstrating how the staging elements are used for experience engagement and meaning-making. By offering experience staging that visitors can engage and enjoy, dark tourism destinations can attract more visitors and sustain earnings from tourism throughout the year rather than only seasonal earning. To obtain a better understanding of dark experience consumption, it is imperative to consider similarities and differences across various contexts. Therefore, the third contribution of this study is that the multi-dimensional visitor experience encapsulates both positive and negative valence and can be applied in both hedonic and non-hedonic tourism contexts.
Advisor / supervisor
  • Alexander, Matthew
Resource Type