The Bonfire Memorial Experience: An Exploration of the Motivations, Affects and Experiences of Site Visitors
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Although there has been a large focus on dark tourism in recent times, there is still limited information on the motivation of consumption and the type of experience that is derived from the visit to a dark tourism site. Existing literature lacks a strong theory on why there is a strong draw towards sites of death and destruction. This thesis seeks to add to the literature that is already present on the subject of dark tourism motivations and experiences. It explores the experiences of visitors at the Bonfire Memorial at Texas A&M University and the motivations they have to visit the site. This data will be compared with data collected at the Alamo in San Antonio, TX to draw conclusions about motivations for two different dark tourism sites. There was a theme of wanting to be part of the Texas A&M University community and the desire to feel a connection to the victims that emerged from the Bonfire Memorial interviews. As a result, the Bonfire Memorial led to very different reactions than the Alamo when observed and visited. At the Bonfire Memorial, visitors were silent and observant, while the Alamo visit was social and involved conversations, the consumption of interpretive tours and shopping for souvenirs. Also, more emotional responses were given to describe experiences at the Bonfire Memorial than were given at the Alamo. The Alamo did not provide as much of a connection for visitors, which is likely due to the ?time gap? between the disaster and the visitor experience as well as the difference in motivations to visit the memorial. From these results, the thesis presents new insights to inform a theory of dark tourism activity motivations that includes a feeling of community and acknowledges the importance of a ?time gap? in the experiences of guests and the actual events on which the site is based. The research is set to be used in the consideration of future bonfires to be held on campus with the memory of the victims of the tragedy in mind. It also informs the design and management of memorial sites.
Texas A&M University
Chiles, Michelle N. (2010). The Bonfire Memorial Experience: An Exploration of the Motivations, Affects and Experiences of Site Visitors. Texas A&M University. Available electronically from