Asia’s Disaster Tourism Over the Line?
Travel Blog • Julia Ross • 03.05.09 | 5:27 PM ET
As we noted yesterday, two new disaster-themed tourist sites are set to open in Asia this month: a museum to commemorate the 2004 tsunami that leveled Indonesia’s Aceh province, and previously off-limits ruins and a museum related to the May 2008 earthquake in China’s Sichuan province. We can debate the pros (local economic development) and cons (unwelcome voyeurism) of disaster tourism, but the descriptions of these two new sites seem to me to cross a line.
Of the tsunami museum, the BBC reports, “Inside, visitors enter through a dark, narrow corridor between two high walls of water—meant to recreate the noise and panic of the tsunami itself.”
At the Sichuan earthquake sites, AFP reports, “Tour groups will be able to go boating on a ‘quake lake’ and visit a museum featuring an ‘earthquake simulation.’”
There’s a fun house aspect to this that I don’t like at all. It’s one thing to establish a museum to educate the public on a disaster’s impact and pay homage to lives lost, but to make the experience entertaining? It’s just plain inappropriate.
When I visited New York’s Ground Zero about four months after 9/11, I found staring into the gaping hole in lower Manhattan unforgettable enough. No simulations needed.