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War tourism is a term the media uses describe the idea of recreational travel to war zones for purposes of sightseeing and superficial voyeurism. War tourist is also a pejorative term to describe thrill seeking in dangerous and forbidden places. There has been no proof of the concept in real life but the idea has gained currency in a number of media reports, none of which have actually interviewed or found a tourist who have visited active combat areas as a tourist.

There have been a number of tourists caught up in war torn regions, many who visit active war zones like Israel, Lebanon, Myanmar, Algeria, Colombia and other regions at war. There are many freelance journalists who describe themselves humorously as "war tourists" (P.J. O'Rourke is the most famous) and mercenaries who have pretended to be tourists to avoid discovery as in Michael Hoare's attempt to take over the Seychelles disguised as "The Royal Order of Frothblowers".

During the 2006 Israel-Lebanon crisis, for example, Beirutmarker was full of tourists who were forced to leave when fighting with Israel broke out. Tourists have also been targeted in Kenya, the Philippines and other regions due to their media value and damage to the country's tourist industry. It could be argued that continued tourism to these regions is war tourism, even though active combat is free from tourist access.

The initial myth of war tourism was actually started by a collection of stories by P.J. O'Rourke. His mocking and cynical view of journalism in conflict areas entitled 'Holidays in Hell: In Which Our Intrepid Reporter Travels to the World's Worst Places and Asks, "What's Funny About This" planted the idea that maybe journalists are after all tourists on an expense account.

The PBS TV show, Frontline, used the phrase war tourism to describe a practice in Iraq of US troops going on daylight patrols and returning in the evening to heavily defended large bases.

A book on this topic is Dark Tourism (Tourism, Leisure & Recreation)by Malcolm Foley and John Lennon. The authors explore the idea that people are attracted to regions and sites where "inhuman acts" have occurred. They claim that motivation is driven by media coverage and a desire to see for themselves, and that there is a symbiotic relationship between the attraction and the visitor, whether it be a death camp or site of a celebrity's death. Much of their focus in on ancient sites where "acts of inhumanity are celebrated as heritage sites in Britain (for example, the Tower of London, Edinburgh Castle), and the Berlin Wall"

War tourism is also confused with "Battlefield tourism": going to places of historic importance or famous battle sites such as the German WW2 fortification, Ground Zero in New York, the Atlantic Wall or the Maginot Line in France.

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