Perspectives on Community Involvement in the Revitalisation of Cultural and Natural Heritage for Sustainable Tourism: A Case of an Island in Hong Kong

Perspectives on Community Involvement in the Revitalisation of Cultural and Natural Heritage for Sustainable Tourism: A Case of an Island in Hong Kong

Dora Agapito, Chung-Shing Chan
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-3156-3.ch006
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This chapter explores how local community involvement contributed to reviving cultural and natural heritage as assets for sustaining tourism on a small offshore island in Hong Kong. Yim Tin Tsai is a village established by the Hakka Chan clan and the main economic activity was salt production in the past. After the village became deserted due to villagers' migration, the existing salt fields were revived by the community. This process has increased the interest of visitors to travel to the village to experience the cultural, religious, and natural heritage of the destination. This case study combines in loco observations, interviews with key stakeholders on the island, and consultation of secondary sources. Opportunities and challenges regarding community involvement in tourism and its contribution to the conservation of tangible and intangible heritage assets of this offshore island are discussed.
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This chapter explores how the local community in a small offshore island in Sai Kung, Hong Kong, revived cultural and natural heritage assets for sustaining tourism on the island. Whilst conserving unique assets in the village, the process of community involvement has increased the interest of visitors to travel to the village to experience the cultural, religious and nature-based heritage of the destination (Agapito & Chan, 2019). This research follows the rationale that community-based tourism has been advocated as one approach to cater for a more sustainable tourism industry (Blackstock, 2005; Okazaki, 2008), and that community participation is pointed out as key for the process of place making (Lew, 2017). Yet, research has been centred in developed parts of the world and case studies conducted at local and more vulnerable contexts are still scant (Friedman, 2010; Samadhi, 2001).

Rural communities around the world face numerous challenges, which include declining and ageing populations, limited economic and social opportunities for residents, vulnerable natural resources and potential loss of community identity (Duxbury & Campbell, 2009; Roberts & Hall, 2001). Yim Tin Tsai is a rural small village which became deserted after all its residents left for finding better conditions of life elsewhere in the 1990s. Recently, members of the community, who share the same cultural identity, grouped and became involved in the process of rejuvenating their ancestral village to both attract visitors and preserve the community identity. Worth noting is the fact that this traditional Hakka village is rich in multiple cultural and natural resources. Recently, some of these resources gained recognition from UNESCO and are deemed unique tourist and educational resources (Agapito & Chan 2019).

Considering extant literature, this chapter will start by reflecting on the dynamics involved in community participation in tourism, followed by theoretical depictions on opportunities and challenges of community-based tourism. The focus will be on the role of community-based tourism in the revitalisation of cultural and natural heritage in small destinations for sustainable tourism. Subsequently, a subsection of the theoretical background will be dedicated to the relationship between community involvement and the process of place making within travel destinations. The research methods approach section will be followed by the presentation of the case under study, as well as the results of the interviews conducted with representatives of the community. The findings of this chapter will allow to discuss the importance of community involvement in the making of small and rural-based travel destinations, such as the case of the off-shore island under study. The discussion will also offer reflections on opportunities and challenges on the relationship between tourism and the conservation of tangible and intangible assets (Ahmad, 2006). The use of multisensory stimuli as a contribution to sustainable tourism (Agapito & Chan, 2019) and the place making of destinations will also be taken into consideration.

This chapter represents the second part of a study developed by the authors in Yim Tin Tsai focused on the contribution of a multisensory approach to responsible management in the context of community-based tourism from the perspective of visitors (Agapito & Chan, 2019). In the first stage of this study, a visitor survey was conducted to identify multi-sensory impressions reported by tourists in relation to their experience with local resources on the island. The referred research suggests that a holistic approach to sensory stimuli based on endogenous resources can contribute to responsible management in community-based tourism. The present study complements the first approach and broadens the research scope by adding a supply-side viewpoint on the topic under study.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Responsible Management: Approach to management that promotes the sustainable use of local resources by ensuring its long-term use and enjoyment, encouraging responsible interactions between stakeholders, and considering ethical issues.

Cultural Heritage: Tangible and intangible resources related to signs of societies’ past activities on the environment.

Heritage Conservation: The process of managing heritage assets in a way that sustains, preserves, and, in some cases, enhances its significance.

Natural Heritage: Heritage related to specific natural features, areas involving endemic species (flora and fauna), geological and physiographical formations, and sites of unique natural beauty or conservation.

Place Making: Planning and marketing management decision-making processes involved in shaping destinations that can follow an organic bottom-up approach (local initiatives), top-down involvement (e.g., local government), or a combination of both approaches.

Sustainable Tourism: Approach to tourism that addresses the needs of the different stakeholders at the destination and considers the current and future economic, sociocultural, and environmental impacts generated by tourism-related activities. This approach aims to mitigate the negative impacts and maximise the positive ones.

Community: A group of citizens within a given geographical area and/or a group of individuals who share origins or interests.

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