Tatev, Armenia
Beiteddine Palace, Lebanon
Giza, Egypt
Zamość, ideal city in Poland

Cultural heritage tourism is a form of non-business travel whereby tourists engage with the heritage, tangible and intangible, moveable and immovable, of a region through activities, experiences, and purchases which facilitate a connection to the people, objects, and places of the past associated with the locations being visited.[1] As opposed to natural heritage tourism, which focuses on visitors' interaction with the unimproved environment of the area being visited, including outdoor sports and recreation, hiking, diving, fishing, and naturalism, and pleasure tourism without any heritage interest, such as indoor recreation, gastronomy, and hospitality without any significant precedent in the history and heritage of the region, cultural heritage tourism can include activities such as tours of immovable cultural sites, such as historic house museums, historic fortifications, human history museums, and library documentary heritage collections, opportunities for purchases of moveable cultural property, such as antiques, antiquarian books, and other works and ephemera associated with the locations being visited, and opportunities for admission to or purchase of intangible heritage experiences associated with the tourism region, including gastronomic heritage and admissions to performances such as theatre, opera, ballet, indigenous dances, and storytelling.[2]


The iconography of cultural heritage tourism in history was often viewed through the context of religion. In the western traditions of Christianity and Islam, the ostensible purpose of a pilgrimage was often to honor the shrine of a prophet or saint, such as that of Mohammed during the Islamic pilgrimages to Mecca and Medina or the shrine of Saint James at the conclusion of the Camino de Santiago at Santiago de Compostela. Other popular pilgrimage sites in Europe included Lourdes in France and Canterbury in England.[3] While these pilgrimages could serve a religious purpose, such as a penance a priest could require in exchange for absolution of a sin a parishioner divulged during confession, pilgrims could contribute significantly to the economic and cultural fabric of certain regions.[4] Pilgrims could spend significant amounts of money on lodging, gastronomy, and hospitality in the regions they visited in addition to payment of religious fees and customs at the cultural heritage sites, and in exchange could experience the culture of different regions, which could help inform other business, political, and spiritual pursuits.[5]

During the renaissance and enlightenment of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, much of the religious dimension of the pilgrimage was forgone in exchange for an increased emphasis on the more pragmatic aspects of travel. Rediscovery of ancient Roman ruins at Pompeii and Herculaneum stimulated an increased interest in both the civilizations of the ancient world as well as travel and iconography associated with classical scenes and motifs.[6] In the United States, President Thomas Jefferson was famously quoted as having said "One travels more usefully when he is alone, because he reflects more."

The nineteenth century saw an increase in tourism to cultural heritage sites, and new modes of transportation such as the Orient Express, a railroad which carried visitors from the English Channel to Venice, Italy, stimulated an increased interest in grand tours of Europe to historical sites such as Saint Mark's Cathedral and the doge's palace in Venice and the Casino Monte Carlo in Monaco.[7] Bradshaw's guidebook was a popular English travel reference guide for railroad tourists of the period, and included descriptions of cultural, natural, and general interest tourism sites and points of interest.[8] During the twentieth century, the Michelin guidebook series was popular with tourists, and red Michelin guidebooks rated and described the gastronomic heritage of different states and regions, while green Michelin guidebooks enumerated points of interest of cultural, natural, and tourism value.[9]

Culture and heritage tourism

Culture, heritage and the arts have long contributed to appeal of tourist destination. However, in recent years 'culture' has been rediscovered as an important marketing tool to attract those travellers with special interests in heritage and arts.[10]

An archaeologist from the UHI Archaeology Institute with heritage tourists at the Ness of Brodgar in Orkney, Scotland. Heritage tourism is a major contributor to Orkney's economy, with an income of £50 million from tourists in 2017.[11]

According to Keith Hollinshead, cultural heritage tourism defines as cultural heritage tourism is the fastest growing segment of the tourism industry because there is a trend toward an increase specialization among tourists. This trend is evident in the rise in the volume of tourists who seek adventure, culture, history, archaeology and interaction with local people.[citation needed]

Cultural heritage tourism is important for various reasons. It has a positive economic and social impact, it establishes and reinforces identity, it helps preserve the cultural heritage, with culture as an instrument it facilitates harmony and understanding among people, it supports culture and helps renew tourism.[10] As Benjamin Porter and Noel B. Salazar have ethnographically documented, however, cultural heritage tourism can also create tensions and even conflict between the different stakeholders involved.[12]

Tourism and heritage are collaborative phenomena, as tourism has played a central role in the emergence and later affirmation of heritage in the modern sense. For example, in the 19th century the concept of a historical monument emerged in the Western world accompanied by tourism.[13]

Sustainable development

Cultural heritage tourism has a number of objectives that must be met within the context of sustainable development. These are the conservation of cultural resources, accurate interpretation of resources, authentic visitors experience, and the stimulation of the earned revenues of cultural resources. We can see, therefore, that cultural heritage tourism is not only concerned with identification, management and protection of the heritage values but it must also be involved in understanding the impact of tourism on communities and regions, achieving economic and social benefits, providing financial resources for protection, as well as marketing and promotion.[14]

Forms of Cultural Heritage Tourism

Industrial heritage

Cultural heritage tourism involving visits to immovable historic sites might include industrial sites such as factories, fortifications, transportation facilities, and other sites which illustrate how the technologies of the past, including mechanical apparatus, weaponry, vehicles, ships, and aircraft of the past impacted the history, economy, and culture of the region.[15]

Architectural Heritage

The built environment surrounding historic sites such as folk villages, historic house museums, castles, and palaces can be testamentary to a level of human creative genius which illustrates how the design features and spatial arrangements of residential, commercial, and public buildings influenced the collective memory of the significance different cultures have historically placed of different forms of architecture, including places of worship, seats of governmental administration, commercial exchanges, specialized housing, specialized industry, and other buildings of cultural interest.[16]

Moveable Cultural Heritage

The purchase of cultural goods, including numismatic coins and currency, antiquarian books and documents, furniture, decorative arts, medals, and antiques, can be associated with heritage tourism when visitors travel to locations where the cultural goods they are shopping for are more likely to be available. While the introduction of online antique marketplaces and auctions have made many forms of cultural goods more accessible to a broader audience, many antiques remain sold in physical antique stores, flea markets, and bookstores without being advertised to a wider online market, and some antiques, such as the decorative arts and regional literature and foreign language books, remain associated with regions where cultural heritage tourism can be conducted.

Gastronomic Heritage

Many regions are associated with traditional forms of food and beverage produced from historical times to the present.[17] For example, the region of Bretagne, France is associated with galettes and crepes, while Normandy is associated with cheeses such as calvados.[18] In the United States, the region known as the Old Bourbon, which comprises much of central and northeastern Kentucky, which was originally part of Bourbon County before it was split into multiple smaller counties, is associated with Bourbon whiskey production and distillery.[19] Often, tourism organizations in these regions offer specialized visits which allow tourists to experience the gastronomic heritage associated with multiple brands of historically informed food and beverage, which can stimulate local economies with increased revenue associated with providing services to visitors.[20]

Intangible Cultural Heritage

Cultural heritage tourists might also travel to experience performances, animations, and productions of intangible heritage associated with the history of certain regions, including theatre, opera, ballet, folk performances, indigenous dances, and anthropological storytelling and other performances. While revenue from this form of tourism can add value to local economies and express traditional cultural values, it can also appropriate cultural heritage for entertainment or normative value if not well executed or appropriately and sustainably managed.[21][22]  

Indigenous peoples

Anthropology and Ethnology were two major disciplines interested by the life of aborigines, their customs and political structures.[23] Although the first fieldworkers were not interested in expanding the colonization of main European powers, the fact was that their notes, books and field-work were employed by colonial officials to understand the aboriginal mind.[24] From that moment on, anthropology developed a strange fascination for the Other's culture.[25] The concepts of heritage and colonization were inextricably intertwined.[26]

Community tourism in Sierra Leone: The story of a community in Sierra Leone trying to manage tourism in a socially responsible manner[27]

Another problem with heritage tourism is the effect on indigenous peoples whose land and culture is being visited by tourists. If the indigenous people are not a part of the majority, or ruling power in the country, they may not benefit from the tourism as greatly as they should. For example, in Mexico tourism has increased because of the predicted end of the Maya Calendar. However, some activists claim the indigenous Maya are not benefitting from the increased traffic through the ruins and other cultural landmarks.[28]

Promotion and facilitation

Heritage tourism is supported by municipalities through promotion and tourist information in many countries and their administrative units, e.g. cities such as the Polish Bydgoszcz[29] or Warsaw.[30]

There are also many forms of presenting selected tourist topics in a harmonized way, for instance European Route of Brick Gothic[31] and many others (Cultural Route of the Council of Europe).

See also


  1. ^ "Cultural Heritage | Kentucky Tourism - State of Kentucky - Visit Kentucky, Official Site". Kentucky Tourism. Retrieved 2023-12-13.
  2. ^ https://www.researchgate.net/publication/237461371_CULTURAL_AND_HERITAGE_TOURISM Rosenfeld, Raymond (2008). "Cultural and Heritage Tourism" Eastern Michigan University.
  3. ^ Collins-Kreiner, Noga (2018-05-04). "Pilgrimage-Tourism: Common Themes in Different Religions". International Journal of Religious Tourism and Pilgrimage. 6 (1). doi:10.21427/D73428. ISSN 2009-7379. S2CID 150040112.
  4. ^ Collins-Kreiner, N. (2010-01-01). "The geography of pilgrimage and tourism: Transformations and implications for applied geography". Applied Geography. 30 (1): 153–164. Bibcode:2010AppGe..30..153C. doi:10.1016/j.apgeog.2009.02.001. ISSN 0143-6228.
  5. ^ Wu, Hung-Che; Chang, Ya-Yuan; Wu, Tsung-Pao (2019-03-01). "Pilgrimage: What drives pilgrim experiential supportive intentions?". Journal of Hospitality and Tourism Management. 38: 66–81. doi:10.1016/j.jhtm.2018.11.001. ISSN 1447-6770. S2CID 261175823.
  6. ^ Bowersock, G. W. (1978). "The Rediscovery of Herculaneum and Pompeii". The American Scholar. 47 (4): 461–470. ISSN 0003-0937. JSTOR 41210458.
  7. ^ "What was the Grand Tour? | Royal Museums Greenwich". www.rmg.co.uk. Retrieved 2023-12-13.
  8. ^ "Biography – ERIH". www.erih.net. Retrieved 2023-12-13.
  9. ^ "History of the MICHELIN Guide". MICHELIN Guide. Retrieved 2023-12-13.
  10. ^ a b Richards, Greg (1996). Production and consumption of European Cultural Tourism. Annals of Tourism Research. Tillburg University Press.
  11. ^ "Project Case Studies - Neolithic archaeology". www.uhi.ac.uk. Retrieved 2022-12-20.
  12. ^ Porter, Benjamin W. and Noel B. Salazar (2005). "Heritage tourism, conflict, and the public interest". International Journal of Heritage Studies. 11 (5): 361–370. doi:10.1080/13527250500337397. S2CID 145581442.
  13. ^ Maria Gravari-Barbas, ed. (2020). A Research Agenda for Heritage Tourism. Edward Elgar Publishing. p. 1. ISBN 9781789903522.
  14. ^ J.M. Fladmark, ed. (2014). Cultural Tourism. Donhead. ISBN 9781873394151.
  15. ^ Falser, Michael (2001). "Industrial Heritage Analysis" UNESCO World Heritage Center.
  16. ^ "Heritage Tourism | THC.Texas.gov - Texas Historical Commission". www.thc.texas.gov. Retrieved 2023-12-13.
  17. ^ "Gastronomy | UNWTO". www.unwto.org. Retrieved 2023-12-13.
  18. ^ "Are you a crêpe expert?". Brittany tourism. Retrieved 2023-12-13.
  19. ^ "Bourbon - Kentucky Tourism - State of Kentucky - Visit Kentucky". Kentucky Tourism. Retrieved 2023-12-13.
  20. ^ https://www.researchgate.net/publication/305396515_Gastronomy_in_Tourism Aras, Sercan et al. (2015). "Gastronomy in Tourism" 3rd Global Conference on Business, Economics, Management, and Tourism. 26–28 November 2015, Rome, Italy.
  21. ^ http://www.npshistory.com/publications/nha/iort-21-2011.pdf Burr, Steven et al. (2011). "A Heritage Tourism Overview" Utah State University Cooperative Extension.
  22. ^ "World Heritage and Sustainable Tourism Programme". UNESCO World Heritage Centre. Retrieved 2023-12-13.
  23. ^ Harris, M. (2001). The rise of anthropological theory: A history of theories of culture. AltaMira Press.
  24. ^ Restrepo, E., & Escobar, A. (2005). ‘Other Anthropologies and Anthropology Otherwise’Steps to a World Anthropologies Framework. Critique of Anthropology, 25(2), 99-129.
  25. ^ Clifford, J., Dombrowski, K., Graburn, N., LeiteGoldberg, N., Phillips, R., Watkins, J., & Clifford, J. (2004). Looking several ways: Anthropology and native heritage in Alaska. Current Anthropology, 45(1), 5-30.
  26. ^ Starzmann, M. T. (2008). Cultural imperialism and heritage politics in the event of armed conflict: prospects for an ‘activist archaeology’. Archaeologies, 4(3), 368-389.
  27. ^ "Community Tourism - Number2 River Association, Sierra Leone". The Vrinda Project. YouTube. Retrieved 4 April 2014.
  28. ^ "Mayans Demand Inclusion in 'Doomsday Tourism'". Indian Country Today Media Network. 21 January 2012. Retrieved 4 April 2014.
  29. ^ "Visit Bydgoszcz". Bydgoszcz Information Centre (Bydgoskie Centrum Informacji). Retrieved 5 December 2017.
  30. ^ "WarsawTour". Warsaw Tourist Office. Retrieved 5 December 2017.
  31. ^ "Europäische Route der Backsteingotik". Europäische Route der Backsteingotik e.V. Retrieved 5 December 2017.