The public skepticism about Chernobyl as a tourist destination can be blamed on only one thing: bad marketing. But the way I see it, the post-nuclear-explosion tourist industry lies virtually untapped - a tabula rasa just waiting for a visionary with a ruble and a dream.
I suppose this story could reasonably be filed under the heading of “making lemonade from lemons”…. How DO you go about making a tourist destination out of a town so thoroughly irradiated that it’s considered unfit for human habitation and where classical music is played over loudspeakers to keep workers from going crazy? I don’t have an answer to that question, and I’m not all certain that the Ukrainians do, either…not that this will stop them from trying to make a few bucks off an unimaginable tragedy.
The sarcophagus designed to encase Chrernobyl’s reactor and contain any radiation leaks is cracked and in danger of collapsing altogether. A newer, larger one won’t be completed until 2014, but the city of Pripyat will apparently be opened to tourists sometime next year. As I was researching this post, no word was available on whether or not tourists will be required to supply their own Geiger counters.
Since Ukraine is still getting the hang of how this whole capitalism thing is supposed to work, Kent Jones from MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow Show has been kind enough to provide some potential marketing slogans gratis:
- Chernobyl—Where the 80’s Live On
- Visit Chernobyl: Feel better about where “you” live
- Visit Chernobyl. We dare you. What’s the matter tough guy, can’t handle a little radiation?
- Chernobyl—-Where Goths Look Extra Bleak!
- Chernobyl—We Broke It In For You
- Hate Government Regulation? You’ll Love Chernobyl!
- Chernobyl—The Vacation Mutation Celebration!
- Chernobyl-Have The Time Of Your Half Life!
- Chernobyl—A Geiger Encounter
- Hot, Hotter, Chernobyl!
And from the comments come a few thoughtful slogans with some real potential:
- The ants here are as big as ponies! And they stay crunchy even in milk!
- Chernobyl: Come have a glass of warm milk. We’re pretty sure there’s no cesium in it anymore.
- Chuck Norris doesn’t change Chernobyl, Chernobyl changes Chuck Norris.
- Chernobyl - Not just for dissidents anymore!
- Chernobyl - Positively Radiant!
- Having a meltdown at work? Get away to Chernobyl!
- Chernobyl - we’ll leave the lights on for you!
- Chernobyl is THE Ukrainian HOT spot vacation destination!
- Chernobyl: How will you react?
- Chernobyl: Come ski on our giant mostly intact metal dome. You’ll have a nuclear winter! (It’s totally rad!)
- Chernobyl: The hot spot for your nuclear family!
- I left my heart in San Fransisco, but I left my hair and teeth in Chernobyl.
- Come to Chernobyl. It’ll grow on you. Or possibly in you.
- Chernobyl Ballroom: Pripyat is hot to trot.
- Chernobyl Football: Glow long.
OK, so this might sound like fun, but when I think of places I might like to whisk She Who Endures My Myriad Eccentricities off to…something tells me that Paris or Athens might be better choices than Pripyat. As a rule, I tend to avoid places where phrases like “Geiger counters required” are part of the local ground rules. And while I’m all about the afterglow, I generally prefer the activity resulting in said afterglow to be less radioactive.
Still, you do have to admire the entrepreneurial spirit required to turn a nuclear disaster zone into a destination resort….