From Around the Travelsphere: Bad Trips, Dark Tourism and More

Bad Trips

After saving for nearly five years, British backpacker Rebecca Callaghan, 21, was two weeks into a three-month adventure when a rogue wave on a Thai beach swept her from the arms of her boyfriend and out to sea last June. The Daily Mail reports, “The sea was initially calm, but a massive wave came suddenly and separated the couple, dragging them under the water.” The tragedy occurred on Thailand’s popular Koran Beach, where at least 20 people have died so far this year after being carried off in unusually strong rip tides. At an inquest held in Britain last week, a coroner ruled Callaghan’s death accidental.

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A federal jury awarded two Ohio men $650,000 after finding a Parrish County, LA, sheriff deputy was “deliberately indifferent” to the mens’ Constitutional Rights during their stay in a New Orleans jail. The men were on the final leg of a cross-country trip when they were arrested in the French Quarter for public drunkenness. Two days later, on Aug. 29, Hurricane Katrina pummeled the city. According to the plaintiffs, the jail flooded, toilets backed up, and one ended up with a serious eye infection. Lawyers argued the men, who weren’t allowed to contact attorneys or relatives, should’ve been released within 48 hours of their arrest. Instead, they were shipped in Katrina’s aftermath to separate prisons, where they remained until early October, more than a month after their arrests.

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The Grand Canyon is dreadfully deadly place, or so reports the Tucson Citizen last week. “Suicides, mishaps, carelessness, freak accidents, venomous critters, murders – death in the Canyon comes in many forms… Heart attacks, dehydration, flash floods, lightning strikes and Colorado River drownings also take their fair share of victims, as do stunts meant to be funny or daring that end up being fatal.”

The paper also illustrates how sometimes visitors die in a combination of ways.

“A mother of five was found dead after being stabbed 42 times with an ice pick, beaten with a wrench, shot several times and dragged to the edge of a cliff and thrown over, landing 50 feet below.”

Industry News

But what is one’s death bed becomes another’s point-of-interest. The Orange County Register reports that “dark tourism” is thriving  in Los Angeles, where assassination sights (Robert Kennedy and Biggie Smalls), celebrity crime scenes (Robert Blake and O.J. Simpson) or places where the young legends OD’d (River Phoenix and John Belushi) are popular attractions. One company, Dearly Departed Tours, promises “100 scenes of celebrity scandal and death” on its Tragical Mystery Tour.

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The Tourism Minister of a southwestern state in India is pushing to prevent its Karnataka Beach from becoming a haven for drug using backpackers and other foreigners. The effort was prompted in part by a television report earlier this year highlighting the open drug markets along beaches in Goa, another coastal Indian state. In January, a local television station filmed foreigners openly smoking marijuana and hashish at a Goan club. When contacted by producers, police declined to view the footage and refused to comment. Goa’s fabled Anjuna Beach has become a haven since the 70s for drug use, but over the last 15 years has seen a rise in rave parties, drug peddling, Russian mafia activities and growing troubles with international pedophilia or sex tourism. Police there have claimed politicians want them to be lax on foreigners so as to not hurt Goa’s tourism industry.

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A report released by Britain’s Make the Roads Campaign on World Tourism Day estimated that the number of tourists who die annually in car wrecks could reach as high as 45,000 by 2020. Last year, 25, 000 tourists died in vehicle accidents around the world attributed mostly to differences in car user culture and lower safety standards in other countries.

Politics

As Bali remembers the terrorist bombing of two night clubs frequented by foreigners eight years ago, a new threat to its tourism industry has surfaced: rabies. Time magazine reports the government has undertaken aggressive tactics to combat the resurgence of the virus, transmitted through animal bites and almost always fatal. Tactics have included shooting more than 100,000 dogs on the island with poison darts. Now they’re aiming to inoculate 400,000 dogs, or 70 percent of the island’s canine population. Since 2008, 78 people have died from the virus, none of them tourists. Nonetheless, epidemic has spurred travel warnings from the American and Australian governments.

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In other travel warning news, Rick Steeves, a blogger for SeattlePI.com, slams U.S. State Department warnings about travel to Europe by encouraging Americans to move to Europe, where, Steeves argues, life is actually safer. “Each year 12 million Americans travel to Europe and 12 million return home safely,” he writes. “I can’t remember the last time an American tourist in Europe was hurt by a terrorist. On the other hand, every year another 30,000 die in the USA – victims of gun violence.”

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North Korea is pushing South Korea to agree to talks about resuming their joint tourism project, which was suspended in 2008 when a South Korean tourist was shot and killed by a North Korean soldier after venturing into a restricted zone. The North responded to the South’s pulling out of the program by freezing the South’s assets from the resort. South Korea has been hesitant to resume talks with the North without a full accounting of the North’s involvement in the sinking of a warship in March or guarantees about tourist safety. The tourism program brought millions of dollars into the poverty-stricken communist nation.

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