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On Bad Terms With Tourism?

by Julie Schwietert Jun 11, 2008

I’ve just cleaned out my mailbox after being on the road for six weeks, and a bundle of magazines and review copies of travel related books now sit in a stack awaiting my attention.

I’ve already torn through a couple of magazines, though, and encountered one article that gave me pause for a couple of reasons.

In the May 19 issue of New York magazine, writer Phil Zabriskie pondered “The Mysteries of the Suicide Tourist.” According to Zabriskie, while New York has one of the lowest suicide rates among big cities in the U.S., it is as attractive to “suicide tourists” as it is to Empire State Building and Times Square gawkers with cameras around their necks.

As Zabriskie elaborated, “A surprising number of people who kill themselves in the city come here from out of town, and many appear to come expressly to take their own lives.”

It’s clear that Zabriskie didn’t coin the terms “suicide tourism” and “suicide tourist”– he cites a New York Academy of Medicine and Weill Cornell Medical College report called “Suicide Tourism in Manhattan, New York City 1990-2004.”

Still, the terms “suicide tourism” and “suicide tourist” seem terribly problematic to me. Regardless of the position you hold in the persistent tourism vs. travel debate, I think most of us can agree that tourism should be generative, both for the visitor and the visited. The terms, in my opinion, are just plain bad.

What do you think? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

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