In a previous article, we explored what disaster tourism was all about.
The act of travelling to disaster areas can either be to satisfy an inquisitive mind’s curiosity or closure for those directly affected by the event.
Because of the debate on how ethical this tourism is, rules for how tourists who wish to engage in disaster tourism exist.
1. Avoid insensitive actions, for instance, taking selfies at grave sites without local authorisation. Such actions trivialize the tragedy and come across as disrespectful. Just imagine how a parent whose child was killed by terrorist suicide bombers would feel if a group of tourists take selfies at their child’s unmarked grave when they visit. No matter how long ago the tragedy happened, the hurt remains fresh.
2. Read up on the history of places with disaster tourism and its sensitivities before you visit. Unless the decision to go to a disaster tourism site is impromptu, it is best to know the story behind the site you are visiting to better appreciate what you intend to see and act appropriately.
3. Be sensitive to the locals. Don’t go around snapping pictures of the locals in shelters or damaged homes without outright permission from them. This is common when people visit IDP camps across the country. The survivors of the tragedy may not say it, but they don’t like that kind of attention when a connection has not been established.
4. Pay your respects to the victims and survivors of the tragedy. Sometimes monuments and memorials are built to mark these events, when there, it is best not to talk too loudly or litter the place with left over food or packs.
5. Respect the dress code and etiquette rules for that place. Some sites have dress codes that tourists are expected to adhere to while visiting. For example, in Cambodia, you can’t visit the Killing Fields with your shoes on. In Northern Nigeria, wearing mini-skirts is already inappropriate not to mention when visit a monument like Tafawa Balewa’s Tomb. The same level of caution should apply to visiting the collapsed building at Ita-Faaji in VI, Lagos State where pupils of Ohen private Nursery & Primary school died.
6. Take a self guided walking tour around areas where survivors live rather than a bus tour with a ton of other tourists whose camera flashes are more for their IG feed than concern for the sensitivities of the people in that area.
7. Don’t play video or internet games when visiting museums dedicated to the memory of a tragic event. If you don’t want to be there, just don’t enter rather than show disinterest in the record of an event that caused many people a lot of pain.
There is no exact science on the right time to visit places or use the services of companies man-made or natural disasters affected. It is important tourists continue to patronise companies and visit places hit by tragedy. That is a sure way to inject funds into the hands of those who really need it and restore hope and confidence to those affected by the tragedy. Just make sure you don’t do anything inappropriate during your visit.
Featured image source: Women on the Road