The latest victim of ‘disaster tourism’ is the Tuscan island of Giglio, which lies close to where the wreck of Costa Concordia still lies.
The cruise ship hit rocks on January 13 this year while carrying more than 4,000 passengers. The tragedy claimed up to 32 lives with some bodies still missing.
In nearby Santo Stefano, about 15km east and attached to the Italian mainland, tourists are queuing up to buy tickets for a ferry crossing to Giglio.
Ticket touts advertise the 10 euro tickets as a chance to see the stricken cruise ship as the ferries pass within metres of the Concordia, meaning tourists can take photos of the vessel.
Giglio’s mayor, Sergio Ortelli, confirmed: ‘There has been a rise in the number of tourists coming for the day, with curious people taking photos of the giant sprawled on the rocks.’ He said the island had become ‘a sort of museum’.
However, while the presence of the half-submerged cruise ship has encouraged inquisitive holidaymakers to visit the island for a day, it has had a negative effect on hotel reservations and holiday lettings.
Mayor Ortelli added: ‘We prefer tourism that’s based on the sea and the environment.’
If it is not hampered by bad weather, the operation to re-float the ship and remove it should be complete by next year, Ortelli said.
From there, it will be towed to a port, dismantled and scrapped.
Giglio’s environment councillor, Alessandro Centurioni, said: ‘The Concordia has become part of our landscape, but it has also spoiled it. Every time I see it, I feel the pain and sadness once more.’
The Costa Concordia isn’t the first time disaster tourism has taken hold following a tragedy.
Earlier this year, passengers paid more than £4000 each to join a cruise following the exact route of the Titanic and mark the 100th anniversary since it sank.
Hordes of tourists have visited the site of the World Trade Center to see the gaping hole left by the 9/11 terror attacks.
And Christchurch, in New Zealand, is also considering offering bus tours of the Red Zone following the earthquake which destroyed whole sections of the city in February 2011, killing 185 people.
There is even a UK website which claims to help people plan their disaster tourism trips to tsunami and volcano zones.
The website disastertourism.co.uk reads: ‘Do you have a unique disaster related experience yearning to be quenched? How about skydiving in Afghanistan, or helping extinguish a bush fire in Australia? Perhaps you have thought it was not possible?
‘We can make your vision a reality – combining compatible countries, activities and taking care of the logistics.’
While disaster tourism is considered unpalatable by some sectors of the travel industry, it is a fast-growing area that shows no sign of abating.