Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Earthquake Tourist Traps

China has found something to do with the land that was affected by the earthquake last May.

From AFP:

SHANGHAI (AFP) — Some of the ruins left by last year's massive earthquake in southwest China, including a collapsed school, will open to tourists later this month, state media reported Wednesday.

Tour groups will be able to go boating on a "quake lake" and visit a museum featuring an "earthquake simulation," the China Daily reported, citing officials in Beichuan county, where 80 percent of the buildings were levelled.

Local government spokesman Chen Wen said the one-day tour will include a visit to Beichuan High School, where students were buried in the rubble of collapsed buildings, the report said.

Chen said local officials created the tour in response to demand from people wanting to see tragic sites linked to the 8.0 magnitude quake that struck the province on May 12, the report said.

More than 200,000 people visited the area during China's week-long Lunar New Year holiday in January, Chen told the newspaper.

Around one in 10 of Beichuan county's 300,000 residents died in the quake, the newspaper said.

Read On
My gut reaction to this was that it is an incredibly morbid move by the Chinese. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that a lot of tourist destinations around the world that I've been to are, in fact, sites of great tragedy.

When I visited Washington DC as a kid, I went to Ford's Theatre, the site where John Wilkes Booth assassinated President Abraham Lincoln.

When I visited Dallas as a teenager, I went to the Texas School Book Depository, the site where Lee Harvey Oswald assassinated President John F. Kennedy.

When I was in Europe studying abroad in college, I visited the Dachau Nazi Concentration Camp near Munich, Germany.

And while I've never been to New Orleans, "Hurricane Katrina tours" are now available to those who are interested.

Tragedy and disasters obviously have appeal to the masses. This is a very odd psychological phenomenon. I'm not sure what that says about us as humans.

Seeing the record the West has accumulated on these kinds of sites, I find it hard to rant against Chinese for also getting in on this disaster/tragedy tourism.


Anonymous said...

Great insight, Mark. I have a tendency to knee-jerk myself into a very condescending attitude when I hear news like this, but I've lived in Dallas and I loved going to that 6th floor museum. What's the difference?

The only hesitation I have is to wonder just how long after each of these international tragedies did these other destinations open to tourism. Was it less than a year later?

Mark said...

Great point on the timing of this, Josh.

The Katrina tours are based on a recent event, but the others are very far removed from the original disasters or events. China's new tourist site is still very very fresh.

Anonymous said...

are you forgetting ground zero?

Mark said...

I thought of Ground Zero when I wrote this, but thought that Katrina was a better example since it, like the earthquake, was a natural disaster.

Jessie said...

With the right planning for an earthquake retrofit, you'll be prepared for this natural disaster.