I collaborated on a new paper now online for Cornell Hospitality Quarterly about paranormal tourism called “Paranormal Tourism: Market Study of a Novel and Interactive Approach to Space Activation and Monetization”.
We review the premise, popularity, and profitability of paranormal tourism, which involves visits to any setting or locale for the explicit purpose of encountering apparent supernatural phenomena for leisure, investigation, services, products, or conventions. This niche sector can offer an inherently engaging conceptual framework for seasonal or year-round space activation and monetization by businesses situated in specific settings or cities. On a broader level, the niche also illustrates how tourism–hospitality brands and operations can navigate and even capitalize on three paradigm shifts that have disrupted contemporary markets, that is, the mobilities, performative, and creative turns. This assertion is underscored with a case analysis of a historic site that successfully leveraged paranormal themes as part of its space reactivation and rebranding. Finally, our market study suggests that the success factors of paranormal tourism might indicate a fourth paradigm shift across the wider tourism–hospitality industry, whereby the experience economy is transforming to an enchantment economy.
My job was to gather information on the popularity of paranormal beliefs and themed tourism. I collected data via Google searches and compiled the results. I can’t take credit for the structure or conclusions. As with my other papers with Houran’s group, they are the academics. I get down to the local level and pull out the popular cultural information and themes and they form it into models and structures for further research. And, someone other than me uses words like “space activation”, which isn’t something that could be conceived in my brain. But that’s how collaborations work. I could never do this kind of paper on my own. Science is a community effort.
The conclusions were that there is a distinct benefit in leveraging a paranormal theme for those sites that can find a way to do it. The surge in paranormal themes in branding a site is further evidence to support a widespread cultural move towards “re-enchantment” of the landscape. It appears that many sites risk their reputation as a “haunted” site because the short-term economic benefit far outweighs the potential dip in reputation. People visit! The example given is the Eastern State Penitentiary that capitalized on their Halloween events and their spooky tales to draw increased crowds to what essentially is a historic landmark to a failed experiment in mass incarceration. People come to be creeped out and the scary tales enhance that branding.
We connect the creative turn towards paranormal branding in tourism to the previously described VAPUS model.
I’ve made a copy of the paper available here.