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Disaster tourism and disaster landscape attractions after Hurricane Katrina: An auto‐ethnographic journey

DeMond Shondell Miller (Department of Sociology, Liberal Arts and Sciences Institute, Rowan University, Glassboro, New Jersey, USA)

International Journal of Culture, Tourism and Hospitality Research

ISSN: 1750-6182

Article publication date: 6 June 2008




The paper's primary goals are three‐fold: to explore how disaster tourism serves as a vehicle for self‐reflection in respect to how the disaster tour affects the tourist; to understand how cultures adapt to abrupt change; and to understand how the tourism industry can lead to the cultural and economic revitalization of devastated areas.


This paper draws on sociological theory, experience, and participant observation to complete an autoethnographic study of a “disaster tour” in and around the New Orleans, Louisiana, metropolitan area.


Conveying information via auto‐ethnographic disaster tourism helps readers develop an understanding of others by being immersed in the tour experience. Placing the researchers in the midst of the analysis presents a perspective of the cultural mix of New Orleans as place set apart, even among places in the south. Finally, this study highlights the importance of a rapidly rebounding tourism industry by “branding” New Orleans as a “Come back city.”

Research limitations/implications

Because the research employs an auto‐ethnograpic approach, it may not be possible to duplicate the observations and findings, which are subject to the interpretations of the reader.


The contribution of this work to the literature is its highlighting of the flexibility of the tourism industry after a catastrophe and noting that tour guides frame the reconstruction process as “signs of hope” and “rebirth,” rather than a city in decline. Readers come to understand that the key to the revival of New Orleans is how disaster tourists understand the disaster as well as the recovery process.



Shondell Miller, D. (2008), "Disaster tourism and disaster landscape attractions after Hurricane Katrina: An auto‐ethnographic journey", International Journal of Culture, Tourism and Hospitality Research, Vol. 2 No. 2, pp. 115-131.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2008, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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