Simon Calder: Appealing to the voyeur in us surely beats death itself

The death toll in the sinking of the Titanic 100 years ago this month was the equivalent of four Jumbo jets crashing simultaneously. So the tendency by some parts of the media and the "Titanication" tourist industry to turn what should be solemn commemoration into a macabre celebration is to be deplored. But I welcome the way the centenary has stimulated interest in social history.

Watch for the next big event: the centenary of the start of the First World War, when the battlefields of Flanders and the Somme will be thick with tourists. Most will want to understand the hell endured and the lessons learned. As the people of Nicaragua, emerging from civil war with added earthquakes, have discovered, "dark tourism" can generate hope for places afflicted by catastrophes.

The leading attraction in Vietnam is the War Memories Museum in Ho Chi Minh City. It is followed by the Viet Cong tunnels at Cu Chi, where backpackers get the chance to experience guerrilla life and fire a Kalashnikov.

Voyeuristic? Undoubtedly. But better a Vietnamese earning money from self-indulgent tourists than being at either end of a gun in warfare.

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