Cultural Tourism and Economic Development

Cultural Tourism and Economic Development

DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-8395-0.ch002


There are many links between cultural tourism and economic development. Governments from entire nations down to cities and counties have made tourism a focal point in their economic development efforts. This chapter discusses 18 types of cultural tourism attractions ranging from architecture to gastronomy to sex. Each of the types of cultural tourism are assessed in terms of the level of interaction between a tourist and an attraction. Travel and tourism's contribution to gross domestic product (GDP) has outpaced overall GDP in 62% of the 185 countries studied by the World Travel and Tourism Council in 2017. Tourism's contribution to GDP exceeds 10% for several countries with Iceland topping the list at 20.1%. Sustainability is a key to the success of any long-term development strategy, and this is certainly the case with cultural tourism. The tradeoff communities face is maximizing short term returns versus managing development (tourism) to maintain the quality of the resource for the long run. Over-tourism results when an attraction or a community experiences numbers of tourists beyond the carrying capacity of the attraction. While the marketplace is better suited for managing much of tourism and its impacts, government is uniquely suited to manage some key aspects of tourism. Government is better able than business to manage for the long term. Additionally, governments can weigh costs and benefits to different groups (e.g., residents versus tourists). Two case studies are presented to highlight these issues.
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Cultural Tourism And Economic Development

The evolution in information technology has had a tremendous impact on tourism. The advents of the telegraph and telephone more than a century ago made travel easier for transportation and lodging firms while at the same time facilitating travel for tourists and others. The rapid changes in communication technology in the last 30 years, dwarfs the changes of the two prior centuries. Travel and tourism have been and, we argue, is currently being revolutionized. The impacts of this revolution are readily observed and felt in the cultural tourism industry. This chapter elaborates what types of travel and activities comprise cultural tourism and relates these to community and economic development, a pressing issue facing communities and nations across the globe.

Cultural Tourism in Context

If all communities were created equal, it is safe to say there would be no demand for cultural tourism. It is the differences in our communities that draw people, that pull us toward the experiences we are unable to generate at home. The breadth of these experiences is extreme to say the least. In this section we elaborate some of these experiences to help us approximate the totality of cultural tourism.

Kim, Cheng, and O’Leary (2007) performed cluster analysis of 29 types of cultural tourism attractions. They found four generic types of cultural attractions: Festival and Music Attractions, Commercial Recreation Parks, Local Festivals and Fairs, and Knowledge/Aesthetic Seeking Attractions. Festival and Music Attractions include the wide range of festivals as well as garden attractions, concerts, opera, and dance performances. Theme parks, science and technology parks, and amusement parks all fall within the category Commercial Recreation Parks. Local Festivals and Fairs include farmers’ fairs and markets and local festivals. The fourth category, Knowledge/Aesthetic Seeking Attractions includes theater, historical replicas of cities, historic sites, general history museums, and science and technology museums (Kim, Cheng, and O’Leary, J., 2007).

Cultural tourism encompasses both objects (sites) and experiences. The most obvious object regarding cultural tourism is the built environment, most notably structures and a wide array of museum exhibits. Tourists flock to Bangkok to view the Thai royal palace, an experience quite unlike visiting Versailles or Buckingham Palace. Cathedrals throughout Europe are tourist draws, most notably because of their extreme architecture and historic value. We visit museums to observe artifacts, history, art, and any number of other features of a culture. One might visit a site where a past culture is unusually well preserved, such as the many Maya sites in Central American and Yucatan, Angkor Wat, Pueblos in the Southwest U.S., or the Great Zim in Zimbabwe. Things, objects tend to be easy to classify and are usually more stable than experiences.

Cultural experiences on the other hand are usually more complex. Serena Volo (2009) notes that over decades, “despite considerable research on the topic of ‘tourist experience’, its contribution to tourism theory and its exploitation for the purpose of creating practical benefits for marketing practices remain unclear.” Chhetri, Arrowsmith, and Jackson (2004) conclude that “there is no single theory that defines the meaning and extent of tourist experiences, although a number of authors have made attempts to formulate models. In its broadest sense, one could consider the observation of a structure as an experience in that it generates some sort of feeling, say awe, amazement, or wonder, but by experience we mean something more, especially in terms of context. We share Pine and Gilmore’s (1999) narrower definition, i.e., to engage an individual in a way that creates a memorable event. This latter definition implies interaction between an individual (tourist) and some other actor(s). Of course interactions (experiences) involving two or more actors, say a tourist and a native, are infinitely more complex and thereby more difficult to categorize and measure than interactions with mere things, e.g., buildings. Fortunately for the present effort, we do not need an explicit definition and an ability to measure, simply the ability to observe and broadly categorize the type of interaction, with an object or with a native.

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