Obit tourism

By Christian Nielsen

Visiting friends and relatives is a thriving sector. But is visiting the dead a growing, if somewhat morbid, niche market?

14 January 2010

Flicking through the newspaper the other day, an unusual headline caught my eye: Obit tourism. A few pages further in and it struck me as too weird, so I went back to the page to verify. Sure enough, it read Orbiting tourism or some such prosaic stuff.

But the obit tourism idea stuck. There is a whole category of tourism called visiting friends and relatives, or VFR if you're in the business. Tourism authorities even put together detailed statistics about this breed of traveller, along with other categories like business or leisure.

So, why not a new sub-category called visiting dead friends and relatives, or VDFR? I suspect this is a hidden but growing form of tourism. Surely, it's worth considering.

It's hard to prove this theory with hard facts, obviously, but observed trends online are a fair proxy of off-line trends nowadays, and the increase in geneology websites and services in recent years shows people are keener than ever to trace their family roots – dead or alive.

Often this will translate into a domestic or international trip to trace that long-lost branch in the family tree – take a few pictures of great aunt Missy from Glasgow's headstone, sort of thing.

For those who live away from their family, overseas or interstate, the of a loved one is also very often a strong pull factor in tourism, leading to last-minute .

Granted, it sounds like a pretty morbid branch of tourism but one that perhaps deserves a bit more attention. It could be a niche play in a struggling sector, or a good marketing opportunity, if you'd dare to have a go at advertising your Cook's Obit Tours.

On reflection… perhaps it's a stretch.

Published with the author's permission. © Christian Nielsen. All rights reserved.

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