Oxford university students design new dark tourism experience with historic site

For their final ‘Dark Tourism’ module assessment at Oxford Brookes Business School, postgraduate students received a client brief from the historic site.

It involved ideas for a new attraction for visitors, with the hope that one or more of their ideas could be adopted.

Oxford Castle & Prison required students to develop an experience within the historical timeframe of the site while working within a strict budget.

They were required to consider all aspects of the attraction, such as staffing, risk assessments, promotional activities, and necessary materials and equipment such as props, costumes, and technologies.

The students, split into small groups, presented their plans to Oxford Castle and Prison representatives on May 2 at the university’s Headington Campus, with feedback from the panel members.

The site will consider whether they wish to adopt the ideas presented.

Dr Brianna Wyatt, senior lecturer in Tourism and Events Management, and the module leader for Dark Tourism, approached Oxford Castle and Prison to enquire about the assessment.

She said: “This assessment is valuable because the students not only have the chance to apply their learning, but they are able to make industry impacts.

“Although it is not confirmed yet if any of the ideas will be implemented, each group had the opportunity to gain specific feedback from staff at Oxford Castle & Prison, and follow-up about their ideas.

“This is incredibly helpful for the students in understanding what industry is looking for and needs in the current experience economy, and particularly for those students wanting to create visitor experiences for visitor attractions after they graduate.”

The students, she said, have also developed skills to create experience ideas, assess the unique selling proposition and competitive advantage, determine a budget, conduct risk assessments, and create a marketing plan.

Other examples of Dark Tourism venues include the Tower of London, where more than 100 executions took place and St Leonard’s Ossuary in Kent, a crypt under a medieval church, housing preserved skulls and bones.

Dark Tourism is an elective module on offer to postgraduate Hospitality, Tourism, and Events Management students, with the planning, work, and presentations counting toward their degrees.

Kesia Middlemore, operations duty manager at Oxford Prison and Castle, said: “We were very impressed by the students’ application and hard work that they have shown in presenting their ideas for brand new dark tourism attractions for us to consider.”

Manasa Kambhampati, an Msc International Tourism, Events and Hospitality Management student who took part in the assignment, said: “This assignment really brought me out of my comfort zone, and put me into an environment that I had not experienced before.”

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