Cultural Heritage Management and Tourism
The built environment refers to the totality of all that humans have changed or rearranged within the natural environment (Bartuska and Young, 1994). It refers to the man-made surroundings that provide the setting for human activity, from the largest-scale civic surroundings to the smallest personal belongings. It includes buildings, streets, urban spaces, roads, highways, waste disposal sites, and man-made water storage facilities.
Within the built environment, “we are here concerned with a quantitatively minor part of the built environment: that part which the contemporary generation resolves has ‘cultural values’, and accordingly merits special protection from the chances of erosion, in order that it can be better enjoyed by the current generation and passed on to the future” (Lichfield et al., 1993). “Cultural heritage management is the systematic care taken to maintain the cultural values of the cultural heritage assets for the enjoyment of present and future generations” (McKercher and Cros, 2002).
According to McKercher and Cros (2002), cultural tourism was regarded as a specialized, niche activity, but now it has superseded ecotourism as the trendy tourism buzzword. “Cultural tourism is arguably the oldest of the ‘new’ tourism phenomena. People have been travelling for what we now call cultural tourism reasons since the days of the Romans; it is just that they were never recognized as being a discrete group of travelers before”. McKercher and Cros argued that the cultural tourism and cultural heritage sectors still operate in parallel, with little evidence being shown of true partnerships forming between them. They are of the opinion that “sustainability can occur only when the practice of trading off one set of values for another ceases and, instead, tourism and cultural heritage management interests work toward the achievement of common goals.
It is important to see that there is a proper management plan for the cultural heritage assets since the high tourism pressures derived from tourist traffic can cause many conflicts.
List of Contents
1. Impacts of Tourism
There can be both positive and negative impacts based on the various actions of the tourists and the changes that are taking place. Tourism can play a beneficial role in the conservation of cultural heritage. Visitor fees, concessions, and donations provide funds for conservation and presentation efforts. Tourism can also promote cultural values by supporting local handicrafts or by offering alternative economic activities.
There should be improved health and sanitary conditions with all the garbage being stopped from going into the public spaces and waste recycling happening. There should be greater educational opportunities – old and young alike will have an opportunity to learn about history, heritage, conservation, and the environment. Tourism should create employment and livelihood opportunities for the local community. In some cases, tourists’ interest in arts and crafts may foster a cultural renaissance. It should be ensured that these should not be guided by the products of commodification. People should be made more aware of built and natural environmental issues.
The thrust should be to minimize the negative impacts of tourism. At the same time, “tourism may not attract sufficient visitors quickly enough to generate the quantities of revenue needed to meet the economic expectations of the community.” This results from the competitive nature of tourism or the quality of resources in the communities” (Pederson, 2002).
On the downside, tourism spawns well-known problems. Literature on tourism is replete with stories portraying tourism as a destroyer of communities and culture (O’Grady, 1981; and D’Sa, 1999). Some tour operators exploit the local culture and the heritage assets while providing little in return for the community or the continuing care of the assets. In their statement, McKercher and Crus (2002) state that “increased visitation, overuse, inappropriate use, and the commodification of the same assets without regard to their cultural values posed a real threat to the integrity – and in extreme cases, to the very survival – of these assets”.
2. Tourism and Local Community
The community is likely to support tourism if the positive impacts outweigh the negative impacts or if they stand to benefit through employment for themselves or family members. But most of the tourism projects do not benefit the local community, and the tourism revenues often reach a different segment of the population who are outside the region. Big companies may deprive locals of anticipated economic benefits.
Dana (1999) stated that once the social costs of tourism are considered, then it may not be considered beneficial to society. “One could argue that the island residents are wealthier in monetary terms, but I question whether they and their island remain as rich as they were before tourists arrived.”
Social disruption caused by increased visitor traffic, is another negative impact of tourism. There will be visitor traffic and it may disturb the people in and around the monuments and sites, but if systematically organized, visitor traffic can be easily and efficiently managed.
3. Tourism and Authenticity
As far as possible, the heritage should not be removed from its context or setting to the extent that its authenticity is affected. The integrity of the cultural space plays a major role in presenting an authentic experience, although it may not be traditional. Highly commoditized attractions by the tourism sector for easy consumption are not desirable (Kuriakose, 2009).
Tourism is a commercial activity, and tourists look for fun and recreation. But tourists want authenticity, not necessarily reality. Heritage assets need to be converted into cultural tourism products, but commodification of culture should be avoided. As commodification takes place, “people begin to perform exclusively for the tourists’ benefit, and events may lose their value as a cultural and spiritual manifestation.” As a defensive mechanism, some communities try to limit tourists’ intrusion by keeping separate cultural manifestations closed to tourists and offering “staged authenticity” performances to visitors, including appropriate interpretation and explanations (Pederson, 2002).
Not all cultural tourists are alike. A small number of tourists really seek a deep learning experience. Affluent tourists sensitive to local culture will stay in local accommodations, eat local food, and have basic facilities. This represents a tiny portion of the traffic, but is on the increase.
The new development should be appropriate to the historic and architectural context. Modern designs and buildings are necessary for any society, but it should be ensured that cultural values are conserved. They should not impact the authenticity, character, and values of the built environment. Proper cultural heritage management is required to sustain the values.
It is feasible to introduce contemporary architecture into historic areas of the city. Modern techniques and materials can also be used as long as they are sympathetic to the surrounding historic fabric. Regarding the introduction of contemporary architecture, the symposium at the 3rd General Assembly of ICOMOS arrived at certain conclusions, which are mentioned below;
Such contemporary architecture, making deliberate use of present-day techniques and materials, will fit itself into an ancient setting without affecting the structural and aesthetic qualities of the latter only in so far as due allowance is made for the appropriate use of mass, scale, rhythm, and appearance.
The authenticity of historical monuments or groups of buildings must be taken as a basic criterion, and there must be avoidance of any imitations that would affect their artistic and historical value.
The revitalization of monuments and groups of buildings by the finding of new uses for them is legitimate and recommendable, provided such uses affect either externally or internally, neither their structure nor their character as complete entities.
The conservation of historic buildings should provide an entirely new approach to the interpretation and presentation of monuments. Interpretation is the means by which people can understand the values and significance of the heritage site, both as a whole and as individual elements. The built heritage should be made comprehensible to as wide a range of people as possible, and should make the best use of the site for educational purposes, either for leisure, formal study, or as a tool for raising awareness.
There have also been significant technological developments in interpretation since the1990s, particularly in such areas as GPS and computer - generated imagery, touch screens, mobile phone technology, and video and audio wands, which could be applied to improve communication of the site’s values to the visitor.
The time spent by a visitor may vary depending upon each person’s interests. Interpretation panels at various levels should be designed depending upon the amount of time to be spent by the visitor. They may include local residents and repeat visitors.
One of the major aims of any heritage project should be to provide an environment which educates the public at different levels. At the most basic level, it teaches about the conserved monuments and their various components. At the conceptual level, it deals with the macro issues of conservation, the built environment, heritage, and sustainability.
“Developing the educational use of a heritage site fulfils the obligation under the 1972 World Heritage Convention to transmit the site to future generations. Educational activity in its broadest sense, encompassing formal and informal education, is essential to creating awareness of the values of the site and ensuring that these are cherished and enhanced in the future” (Austen, 2006).
The Interpretation and Education Strategy would provide a mechanism to help people engage with the site, appreciate its significance, and understand more of the way in which it is being managed and conserved.
7. Protection of Natural Environment
Contemporary human society is in a transition, moving from the rural to the urban. There is, consequently, an urgent need for the urban community to re-establish and remain connected to such systems, so it does not forget its fundamental dependence on them.
The natural environment of a site may have great biodiversity. There may be sensitive areas such as rivers, forests, lakes, etc., in which the built environment is situated. The prevailing degradation of the natural environment due to reasons such as pollution, silting, deforestation, etc. can be alarming and threatening to the built heritage as well. The garbage collection in that particular site may go up and more pollution may result due to the increase in tourist traffic. Environmentalists may have important concerns over the potential negative impacts of tourism development on the flora and fauna of the region.
The landscape of the natural environment is integral to the values of the built heritage as well. The management of the built heritage must take into account the values of the natural environment and its role as a wider setting; in particular when there are gaps in our detailed understanding of the relationship between architecture and development. Inappropriate development in the region may impact negatively upon the built and natural heritage. “Trees, mangroves and other flora make a vital contribution to the setting of the Muziris Heritage Site, especially to its skyline. The bio-diversity of the Muziris Heritage Site is vulnerable and requires careful management to ensure its survival. The network of waterways is going to be used by a large number of new visitors for transport to the area once the project sites are open. It is critical that the importance of clean waterways, controlling mosquito menace, reducing pollution and such matters is stressed”(Kuriakose, 2009).
Paul Austen, Frontiers of the Roman Empire WHS – Hadrian’s Wall: A New Management Plan 2008-13, A Discussion Paper on the Issues on Hadrian’s Wall, UNESCO, 2006.
Tom J. Bartuska, and Gerald L. Young, (eds.), The Built Environment: A Creative Inquiry Into Design and Planning," Crisp Publishing Company. Menlo Park, California, 1994.
Leo Paul Dana, (1999), The Social Cost of Tourism, Cornell Hospitality Quarterly, Vol. 40, pp 60-63.
D’Sa, Eddie (1999), Wanted: Tourists With a Social Conscience, International Journal of Contemporary Hospitality Management, Vol. 11, pp 64-68.
Benny Kuriakose, Conservation Development Plan for Muziris Heritage Site, 2009.
Nathaniel Lichfield, William Hendon, Peter Nijkamp, Christian Ost, Almerico Realfonso, Pietro Rostirolla (eds.), Conservation Economics, International Scientific Committee, International Council on Monuments and Sites, 1993.
Bob McKercher, and Hilary du Cros, Cultural Tourism: The Partnership Between Tourism and Cultural Heritage Management, The Haworth Hospitality Press, New York, 2002.
O’Grady, Ron, Third World Stopover: The Tourism Debate, World Council of Churches, 1981.
Arthur Pederson, Managing Tourism at World Heritage Sites: a Practical Manual for World Heritage Site Managers, Arthur Pedersen, Published by Unesco World Heritage Center, 2002.
For more information on the cultural heritage and tourism, check out the following blogs: