Obit tourism comes to life

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.


  • Christian Nielsen

    Christian Nielsen is a journalist, copy writer and editor based in Brussels. He writes pretty much anything that takes his fancy, from the woes of travelling with kids to the dangers of antidepressants, but technology, EU affairs and science writing pay the bills.

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3 thoughts on “Obit tourism comes to life

  • Merrel, It sounds like you’ve taken this quite far… I made no comment on how people pass away. Sometimes it may be under horrific circumstances like WWI. Today, Flanders Fields are one of the most popular tourism destinations in Belgium. People, through their travels, are indeed remembering the dead. It’s a little discussed trend in tourism. But obviously something much more for those who are doing the remembering.

  • Merrel Loius Far

    BTW, and I hope we do not drag this too long, but care to remind us just what kind of weapons were being used on Kurds by Saddams army? Towards the tune of hundreds of thousands of dead Speak about re-written history


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