Volcano Tourism is on the rise; But is it Safe?

Opinion: Volcano Tourism has gained a lot of traction in recent times. People have begun showing interest in exploring unique things in nature and many are particularly interested in geological heritage.

Volcanic tourism sites such as national parks, geo-parks, World Heritage centres play a crucial role in this kind of tourism as it presents a way for tourists to learn about the geo-diversity while being in close contact with nature.

There are over 1500 active volcanoes worldwide and Mauna Loa, situated in Hawaii is the largest one. Many regions consider volcano tourism beneficial as it has an economic advantage. Over the years, tourists have been flocking in huge numbers to sites that are home to active and dormant Volcanoes, thereby generating revenue to those areas.

Many a time, the number of visitors visiting these locations increase right after the aftermath of a volcanic eruption. This kind of trend links volcano tourism to disaster tourism. A classic example of this is Pompeii, a World Heritage site, which became famous for the story of its devastating loss caused by a volcanic eruption nearly 2000 years ago.

Volcano Tourism
Ruins of Pompei

Recognizing the increasing trend of volcano tourism, in several of the volcano tourist spots, governments and organizers have created well-established roads all the way up to the volcanoes. Additionally, several of them even have cable cars, only to add up to the excitement of the tourists.

But the question is – How safe is volcano Tourism? 

Volcano tourism is an example of the extent to which tourists go these days to experience something new and thrilling. For many, the experience of seeing a live eruption can be a powerful one.

Volcanoes are magnificent forces of nature that are uncontrolled by humans and are highly unpredictable. You never know when they suddenly erupt.

On 22 December 2018, a tsunami struck Indonesia, killing over 400 people and injuring thousands. The tsunami is said to have been caused due to Anak Krakatau volcano slipping into the ocean.

Earlier this year, 23 people lost their lives in Hawaii tragically to a ‘Lava Bomb’ that shot out of the Kilauea volcano and struck a tourist boat.

Last year, an 11-year-old boy fell to his death in the Solfatara Crater in Pozzuoli, Italy and his parents died trying to save him. In 2010, two tourists froze to death attempting to reach a volcanic eruption at Iceland’s Fimmvörðuháls pass.

Such incidents reiterate the dangers of volcano tourism and make us question the safety of such tours.

Speaking about volcano tourists, Amy Donovan, Author of “Sublime encounters: Commodifying the experience of the geos”, told CNN:

“People are drawn by the power of volcanoes, I think — it is more than a spectacle, but rather an experience”

Donovon’s study is based on the rising volcano tourism in Iceland. Although volcano tourism can prove to be fatal, she states that tourists can protect themselves by listening to instructions given by the authority.

“Pay attention to what the authorities are saying — active volcanoes pose a number of hidden hazards, such as high levels of toxic gases and unstable ground.”

Authorities have done all they can in their power to protect tourists over the years, but we must ask ourselves, is it enough? The idea of hovering close to a pit of molten lava may seem amazing, however, things can drastically change, possibly for the worst.

Should we promote volcano tourism, a tourist attraction that has the potential to injure tourists, or even worse, take lives?


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