Heritage as a Source of Competitive Advantage: Lessons From Madeira

Heritage as a Source of Competitive Advantage: Lessons From Madeira

Antonio Almeida (Universidade da Madeira, Portugal), Luiz Pinto Machado (Universidade da Madeira, Portugal) and Tiago Pimenta Silva (Universidade da Madeira, Portugal)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-0365-2.ch011


Heritage tourism, as one of the most relevant market niches in the tourism sector, plays a key role in furthering the competitiveness of destinations in general. The relationship between cultural heritage and tourism development has received an increasing amount of attention by academia, owing to the persistent efforts of the DMOs to incorporate heritage resources in tourism plans. This chapter explores the potential impact of heritage tourism in the development of tourism products to increase overall competitiveness based on new combinations of heritage resources and traditional competitive advantages of the tourism sector. To this end, the chapter examines data pertaining to respondents hosted in one of the Quintas da Madeira. Findings suggest initiatives to increase the cultural component of the tourism experience to reinforce the capacity to transform heritage and culture in competitive products.
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There is a growing awareness that mature destinations efforts to assure a high level of competitiveness in the international market are increasing dependent on its ability to achieve an outcome on the current attempts to foster the cultural heritage sector (Catrina, 2016; Garrod and Fyall, 2000; Hall and Williams, 2008; Alzua et al, 1998; Halewood and Hannam, 2001). However, the relationship between cultural heritage, tourism development and destination competitiveness remains an under researched topic with respect to peripheral areas beyond the Mediterranean Basin (Apostolakis and Jaffry, 2005; Alberti and Giusti, 2012; Prentice, 1993; Viu et al, 2008), owing to overwhelming focus on traditional touristic hotspots benefiting from centuries old layers of archeologic, architectural, historical and cultural artefacts and traditions (Chhabra, 2010; Apostolakis, 2003; McGrath et al, 2016; Cjang, 1997; Chang, 2010; Chang and Teo, 2008; Prideaux and Kininmont, 1999). In counterpoint to the current focus on heritage-rich areas, this paper is based on a case study centred in the boutique hotel sector in Madeira. The local tourism sector has been akin to explore history and identity related to mega-celebrations and events to highlight a number of tangible and intangible cultural and heritage assets. The sector intends to increasing the destination´s competitive levels centred on a reinforced mechanism of product diversification (based on culture and heritage), as well as, on the acquisition and development of competences in staging experiences. The enhancement of the managerial skills and development of a collaborative and synergist mindset between policy-makers and key players is another matter of concern in this regard (Jesus and Franco, 2016; Laing et al, 2014; Poria et al, 2001; Smith and Puczkó, 2012).

The mild climate, the high number of hours of sunlight, the luxurious vegetation and colourful flowers along with the beautiful landscapes, have all been an important driver of the tourism demand in Madeira, and a key factor impacting the very nature of the core product being offered. However, Madeira has to offer a specific heritage/cultural background, shaped by the Discoveries and consequent introduction of new agricultural practices and crops (e.g. sugar cane, bananas, Madeira wine). Account should also be taken of the progressive development of a “welcoming society” (Husbands, 1983) as a result of five centuries of experience in dealing with travelers and colonists on their way to the New World. Moreover, as a result of the presence of a strong British community, dating back to the XIX century, another layer of cultural influences was added to the tapestry of cultural, human and historical influences governing the development of the island´s identity, to give Madeira a unique cultural and historical heritage. Nevertheless, it can be stated that he region cannot compete with other regions entitled to a richer cultural background. Madeira fails to offer an “unrivalled product for the consumption of the modern cultural tourists” (Markwick, 1999, 230), if we consider the number of archaeological artefacts, the history of military occupations and modern-day cultural expressions. As observed by Andriotis (2006, 631), “because of a lack of diversity in their resources, most island destinations depend overwhelmingly on the 4S’s (sun, sea, sand and sex), only a small number of larger island destinations (e.g. Cyprus and Jamaica) are enriched with the resources that may allow the marketing of a diversified tourist product.”

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