Handbook of Cultural and Heritage Management


3.3. Culture and Tourism: an inextricable bond

‘As a force for social change, tourism has had an impact of the same order as the industrial revolution. In less than three decades, tourism has transformed the way the world looks and works.’ (Sudjic, D., 1993: 2). Travel & Tourism is currently one of the world's largest industries, employing more than 235 million people worldwide and generating some 9.2% of global GDP. There are many reasons why people travel, and culture is definitely high up the list. People travel to visit museums and sites, to go to festivals, to enjoy local traditions, to experience other cultures. As Boniface (1995) used to say: “… any tourism […] would have little power of attraction without the presence of some alien culture, of differentness. Without this, what would be the point of leaving home?”

Cultural Tourism

Cultural Tourism is a definition used to discern quality- and authenticity-oriented touristic activities from the “mass” tourism developed mainly in the 1970s, which aimed at providing tourists with standardized, easy and presumably pleasant leisure activities in cheap prices.

Nowadays “cultural” tourism is even further specialized: archaeological tourism, art tourism, festival tourism etc. On the other hand, even “mass” tourism includes culture-oriented activities: organized excursions, for example, always involve one or two visits to museums and sites in between eating, shopping and sunbathing. Therefore the relation between culture, heritage  and tourism is an open, ever-changing one.

Impact of cultural tourism        

 Cultural tourism is always considered as a less destructive, more positive and environmental-friendly kind of tourism, which, furthermore, can become more profitable, from the point of view of sustainability, to the local economies. It offers incentives for:

o   Preserving the traditional or ancient built environment

o   Preserving traditional jobs and crafts

o   Improving the quality of services

o   Raising the educational and cultural level of the region as the locals re-appreciate their own heritage and culture

o    Maintaining a balance between tourism and local ways of life, as authenticity is a quest for cultural tourists.

o   Developing all-year round tourism

o   Developing a larger segment of jobs with stronger interaction to each other

o   Developing local entrepreneurship and thus keeping the income within the community


With the motto “See the land, meet the people”, one of the leaders in cultural tourism, “Studiosus Reisen” in Germany has produced several types of travel: Language-learning traveling; Focus on everyday life; Archaeological travels; Music and festivals. They were the leaders in what we call “experiential travels”, a kind of advanced cultural tourism where visitors participate in activities related to everyday life reflecting aspects of a country’s culture.

Fig 1: The old and the new look of shops on the traditional flea market at Hephaestou Street, Monastiraki, Athens


Revivals and events: urban festivals, amusement parks, cultural and sporting activities

Festivals and events are intrinsically linked both to tourism and to successful heritage management –let alone creative industries. Learning to plan them, manage them and turn them into profitable yet sustainable tools for local development is a bet to be won by local societies and authorities.

·         Historic revivals: Festivals related to historic events and places involving re-enactments, parades, and theatrical plays always stir the interest of the broader public. However, they have to be planned very carefully, as there is a very thin line dividing authenticity from kitsch. A specialised team of experts needs to be in charge and the local population needs to be involved, so that the whole endeavour emanates authenticity.

Fig 2: The parade in honour of Emperor Charles V (Belgium) and the Armata (burning of the Ottoman Fleet) in Spetses, Greece, are examples of successful re-enactments, embraced by the locals.


·         Festivals and fairs: Festivals and fair have always been major attractions for strangers and foreigners and a way to communicate, barter, exchange ideas, even mingle with people outside the community. Most modern cities hold their own festivals, usually involved with art and culture, or their fairs for commercial and informative reasons. From the Venice carnival to the Frankfurt book fair and the Kalamata dance festival each one constitutes  a major yearly event, which not only affects local economy but also peoples’ lives. However, although all these events can be profitable to the local economies, they have to be planned and budgeted carefully in order not to bring financial loss to the organizing authorities.



 Alternative tourism

Cultural tourism sometimes falls within the broader category of tourism called alternative tourism. Within the same category are listed various other kinds of tourism related to nature and related activities, such as trekking, mountaineering, rafting, scuba-diving, sailing, etc. Tour operators (particularly small companies focusing on experiential tourism) attempt to create environmental-friendly, culturally rich and sustainable touristic experiences for visitors who want to spend their leisure time in an active, energetic manner rather than relaxing.

The entire set of an alternative touristic experience involved staying in small, “boutique” hotels, agrotouristic farms or even ordinary people’s homes (hence the success of Airbnb), tasting local cuisine, spending time in outdoors activities, using local transportation media or moving on foot/bicycle/motorcycle and contacting locals as much as possible, even participating at handcraft activities.

Fig. 3: In alternative tourism luxury, all-inclusive hotel complexes are substituted by small boutique hotels in traditional buildings.


Local Economy and Cultural Tourism

Sustainable local economy means “running a business, an organization, or a government in such a way that it doesn’t destroy the resources – natural, cultural, or economic – on which it depends” (Bien, 2006). In recent years, discussion encompasses cultural tourism’s role in achieving sustainable development.

The sustainability aspects of cultural tourism which concern the local community include:

-strengthening the sense of ownership and identity

- giving opportunities for a better livelihood if tourism businesses are run by locals as profits stay within the  local communities.

- Upgrading the educational and training standards of the locals in order not only to acquire competence and skill for participating in heritage conservation and heritage tourism, but also in order to respect  local intellectual property, and to learn the “know-how” of heritage as tourism resource.

In this process it is the local community which determines the sufficient development of the area, the competitiveness and the higher standard.

At this point it is noteworthy the importance of designing and implementing a local tourism policy that will protect the local resources and ensure the sustainability and growth of the local tourism development.


What are the positive and negative effects of cultural tourism on local economy?

o   Creating public private partnerships (PPPs)

o   Local authorities: ensure sustainable development of communities through programmes. They are also more skilful in recognising local cultural resources

o   Stakeholders: All the identified stakeholders coming from business sector, government, universities, scientific research, civil society, should have a balanced quota characterized by  competitiveness as well as collaboration.

o   The difficult part is to coordinate these PPPs due to the different type of the partners; setting a commonly accepted framework and rules, is essential for a successful partnership. In this process standardized policies are to be avoided and new models should be sought out.

o   This final goal should be characterised by attractive investments and business opportunities taking always into consideration short, medium and long term investment turnover.

Identification of the 4 axes for a sustainable local development: local firms, labour skills, inward investment, infrastructure, (Pedrana, 2013; Robinson, 2016)

Ø  Local firms: enhancement of investments and enforcement of the local industry can be achieved when local firms attract other investments and create synergies. The effects may be direct or indirect depending on the level of involvement in tourism industry.

Ø  Labour skills: ensuring that education is connected to market needs and provides the necessary skills to the local labour force.

Ø  Inward investment & infrastructure: improvement to the  accessibility and infrastructure of the local area is important in order to support the investments and the development of the area. (Pedrana, 2013).

Ø  Education: the educational level of the people involved in the tourist sector might also attract tourists and enable locals in offering better services.

After that, what?

Here are some ideas based on worldwide examples of new approaches in tourism. They are all based on a combination of leisure, co-operation of all kind of stakeholders (tourism service providers, local community, cultural managers) and peer-to-peer exchanges in order to provide unique and customised experiences (OECD, 2016):

➢      Tourism product within the community: Create innovative tourist products at community level offered to tourists  seeking for authentic experiences.  

➢      Dining, transportation, travel planning and accommodation. Based on the model of sharing economy the idea is to provide to tourists a true experience of the everyday life of the local community.

o   Dinners prepared from locals services in the house,

o   moving from one place to another using the local vehicles,

o   organise travels enhanced with many local activities (farming, fishing etc)

o   staying in a place and living with the local style.