Jonestown an Unlikely Tourist Destination

There is a reason that Guyana has pursued Jonestown as a tourist site, and an even more compelling reason that it won’t succeed.

As both native and expatriate Guyanese will testify, the country is in financial difficulty and is looking for whatever source of revenue it can generate, no matter how macabre or how dark an impulse within the human spirit it is trying to cater to. But as one regular correspondent to this site wrote, “Someone’s hope for tourism is trumping obvious reality.”

The fact is, Guyana is not a destination of choice for the typical traveler, in part because there are few other tourist sites, and accommodations are not attractive for the type of traveler who might consider it. It is also expensive to get there, and once you are there – “there” being Guyana’s capital city of Georgetown – it takes a second effort (and expense) to get to Jonestown. Indeed, among the reasons the leadership of People Temple considered the Northwest District of Guyana for its agricultural project were its inaccessibility and the expense for a casual traveler (or hostile relative or government investigator) to get there.

But the real deal-breaker is that the number of people who would want to go to Jonestown for its own sake is pretty low. If you’re in Chicago, you might want to stop by the theater where John Dillinger was shot down; if you’re in Dallas, you might swing by Dealey Plaza and the Texas Book Depository; if you’re in Milwaukee, you might decide to drive down the street where Jeffrey Dahmer lived. But none of these by itself is going to provide enough incentive for most people to go to those places, and in the long run Jonestown will prove to be the same.