Travel: The Disaster Tourism club: a new fashion for 1998

LAST WEEK I talked about which places would be "in" this year, but this week it is the style of travel that interests me. So let me announce the new fashion which I have identified for 1998. It's called Disaster Tourism.

Judging by readers' responses to the two columns on the letters page of this section - Your Holiday Disaster and Your Holiday Romance - the art of the perfect disaster is a far more serious business than the art of love where holidays are concerned. By contrast to the thin trickle of holiday romances I receive (about one a week), the number of holiday disasters is nothing short of a torrent. Every day they pour in: tales of delayed flights, bad meals, surly officials, unexpected wars, smelly toilets, dishonest taxi drivers. The fact that Romantic Tourism is out does not mean that people are not enjoying themselves though. On the contrary, most of these disastrous tales seem to have been written not in bitterness but with enormous relish and relief that their trip had after all been worth talking about. It almost seems as though the worst kind of holiday might after all be those smooth, incident-free affairs that tour operators hope for.

Look at today's disaster (page 11) for example. It is hard to imagine that Gordon Parr regrets having been evacuated from Sierra Leone under shell fire. I have the impression in fact that his main interest in visiting such a dodgy place was to run the risk that something damn exciting was going to happen. And good on him, it did.

So don't be fooled by people who go to potential war zones and then act surprised when they get shot at. These people are just indulging in cool Disaster Tourism. I've recently received stories from people "holidaying" in Rwanda, Kurdistan and Angola, all of whom profess to be astonished at the difficulties they encountered but who obviously enjoyed every nasty bit of it. By the way, if you like the smell of tear gas you don't necessarily have to go as far as Rwanda - the highly salubrious Basque town of San Sebastian can offer almost guaranteed riots on Saturday afternoons, as can various towns on the West Bank.

But even people who don't quite have the stomach for that kind of aggro nevertheless manage to find their own disasters in Ibiza or the Caribbean. My favourite ever reader's disaster from a few months back made arrival in the Dominican Republic - one of Britain's favourite package destinations - sound more sinister than disembarking at the island of Dr Moreau. "Departing passengers threw us toilet rolls, with the words welcome to the island of Hell written on them", the reader wrote. She might as well have added that the tour rep's eyes, in certain lights after nightfall, could be seen to emit an eery glow. But talk about not going far - some people don't go anywhere at all to find their holiday nightmare.

One man recently wrote a fascinating tale about visa shenanigans in the Italian Consulate in London (they advised him to switch his holiday to France as French visas might be easier to obtain). A few people have written about holidays which were disastrous because they never happened: because their car got stuck in snow while reversing out of the garage.

On the other hand, some readers have sent stories that strike me as examples of wishful thinking rather than authentic disasters. These aspirational Disaster Tourists catalogue lists of minor events as if, in total, they could amount to a serious disaster (ignoring the fact that the rest of the holiday had been embarrassingly stress-free and short on disastrous qualities). So you had wine poured into your water glass? The man in front reclined his seat as you were having your dinner? The taxi driver took you on a circuitous route to your hotel? It rained? The local drivers were crazy? Huh. If only it could be so easy to join the 1998 club of Disaster Tourists.

The Independent travel offers: Discover a world of inspiring destinations

Suggested Topics
John Travolta is a qualified airline captain and employed the pilot with his company, Alto
people'That was the lowest I’d ever felt'
Life and Style
healthIt isn’t greasy. It doesn’t smell. And moreover, it costs nothing

Other places that have held independence referendums
Jonas Gutierrez (r) competes with Yaya Toure (l)

Newcastle winger is in Argentina having chemotherapy

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Blossoming love: Colin Firth as Stanley and Emma Stone as Sophie, in 'Magic in the Moonlight'

Actors star in Woody Allen's 'Magic in the Moonlight'

peopleThe Times of India said actress should treat it as a 'compliment'

Watch this commuter wage a one-man war against the Circle Line
We are phenomenally good at recognising faces; the study showed that humans have been selected to be unique and easily recognisable

Human faces unique 'because we don't recognise each other by smell'

Arts and Entertainment
You've been framed: Henri Matisse's colourful cut-outs at Tate Modern
artWhat makes a smash-hit art show?
Home body: Badger stays safe indoors
lifeShould we feel guilty about keeping cats inside?
A male driver reverses his Vauxhall Astra from a tow truck

Man's attempt to avoid being impounded heavily criticised

Arts and Entertainment
US pop diva Jennifer Lopez sang “Happy Birthday” to Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow, president of Turkmenistan
musicCorporate gigs become key source of musicians' income
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'
filmsDaniel Craig believed to be donning skis as 007 for first time
The Guildhall School of Music and Drama is to offer a BA degree in Performance and Creative Enterprise

Arts and Entertainment
Emma Thompson and Bryn Terfel are bringing Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street to the London Coliseum

Returning to the stage after 20 years makes actress feel 'nauseous'

Arts and Entertainment
Pulp-fiction lover: Jarvis Cocker
booksJarvis Cocker on Richard Brautigan
Arts and Entertainment
Robin Thicke and Pharell Williams in the video of the song, which has been accused of justifying rape
music...and he had 'almost no part' in writing it
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    IT Administrator - Graduate

    £18000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: ***EXCELLENT OPPORTUNITY FO...

    USA/Florida Travel Consultants £30-50k OTE Essex

    Basic of £18,000 + commission, realistic OTE of £30-£50k : Ocean Holidays: Le...

    Marketing Executive / Member Services Exec

    £20 - 26k + Benefits: Guru Careers: A Marketing Executive / Member Services Ex...

    Sales Account Manager

    £15,000 - £25,000: Recruitment Genius: A fantastic opportunity has arisen for ...

    Day In a Page

    Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

    A shot in the dark

    Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
    His life, the universe and everything

    His life, the universe and everything

    New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
    Reach for the skies

    Reach for the skies

    From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
    These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

    12 best hotel spas in the UK

    Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
    These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

    Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

    Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
    Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

    Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

    His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    The Imitation Game, film review
    England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

    England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

    Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week