Cultural Tourism is not new! It has been the dominant tourism for European countries for over 1000 years. It is a market-led as well as a product-driven industry.
There are many definitions regarding the term cultural tourism:
'Cultural tourism' is the subset of tourism concerned with a country or region's culture, especially its arts. It generally focuses on traditional communities who have diverse customs, unique form of art and distinct social practices, which basically distinguishes it from other types/forms of culture. Cultural tourism includes tourism in urban areas, particularly historic or large cities and their cultural facilities such as museums and theatres.
It can also include tourism in rural areas showcasing the traditions of indigenous cultural communities (i.e. festivals, rituals), and their values and lifestyle. It is generally agreed that cultural tourists spend substantially more than standard tourists do. This form of tourism is also becoming generally more popular throughout Europe.
Visits by persons from outside the host community motivated wholly or in part by interest in the historical, artistic, scientific or lifestyle/heritage offerings of a community, region, group or institution.
Tourism which involves mixing and meeting with local people, and learning about their lifestyle and culture.
Traveling to enhance education and personal growth as well as seeking pleasure.
Attending cultural events and venues.
Exploring built heritage and the natural environment.
Seeking authentic, informed quality experiences.
Seeking individual involvement and varied experiences.
Cultural tourism is the sort of tourism that gives visitors the opportunity to understand the essential character and whole culture of a place which includes its history, society, landscape, arts and architecture and its people and lifestyle.
It emphasizes the relationships between visitor interest, community values and tourism product. It should guide any tourism development undertaken, and it offers great opportunities to create special interest or educational tours and attractions.
Cultural tourism can cater for the most sophisticated interests but it must be presented in a simple, straightforward and interesting way. It should never be merely academic, dry or dull.
The focus is shifting from 'elite history' (story of kings, presidents and generals) to 'social history' (story of anonymous people, the 'common folk' and their activities). Tourist are demanding a 'value added' experience. In an age of virtual experiences – seeing the real thing in its real setting will become more valuable than ever.
Cultural attractions, such as Museums and Art Galleries are a major tourism advantage. They are open all year, operate in wet weather, free or relatively inexpensive to access and they 'value add' to the international and domestic visitor's experience of the destination.
Examples of the importance of Cultural Tourism throughout the World:
The Australia Council's national statistics on visits to cultural institutions shows that:
The top 271 museums and public funded art galleries in Australia (approximately 2000) attract 16.5 million (and growing) visitors per annum.
10,000 volunteers are actively involved in programs and museums over all employ the equivalent of nearly 4,127 full time staff.
The niche market created by Friends and support groups of museums and galleries could be as high as 300,000 –most of whom are reached by regular newsletters
Attendances by international visitors to museum and galleries increased by 35% over a six year period. 82% preferred art galleries and 33% history or science museums.
More recently the startling revelation that Australians now prefer to visit museums or libraries in preference to attending sporting events.
Research form the USA reveals:
-Looking at other people's towns, their heritage and their culture is becoming bigger business than going to national parks.
-Cities are developing and implementing cultural plans intended, not only for tourist, but also for the cultural development of the very people who lived in theses cities.
-In 1995 a report "Exploring America through its Culture" was produced by the President's Commission on the Arts and Humanities produced evidence that attendance by cultural tourists at museums and similar attractions produced significant economic results.
-More than 500 million visitors visit the 8,200 museums in the USA each year and those museums are noticing a variety of results from increased cultural tourism:
-Museums are being recognized as economic generators
-Partnership and collaborations are become more common
-Museum programs are becoming more externally focused
Why focus on cultural tourism?
Cultural Tourism has the potential to stand equally with Natural or Eco-tourism as the basis from which we can promote a distinctive, authentic and exciting image of Australia.
- Already museums and art galleries are major drawcards attracting around 20 million people per annum.
- Cultural activities have the potential to increase international tourism.
- Cultural institutions and organizations have networks throughout the world which are an untapped niche market.
- Major domestic events and exhibitions have shown that, when marketed correctly, can be attractions in their own right.
Is Cultural Tourism sustainable tourism?
It is successful in the long term because it recognizes and builds on what is important about a local place or culture. It works with community to identify the special character of the destination –its special character –its sense of place and sense of continuity. Cultural tourism ensures that new developments are so consistent with the character of the place they become part of it.
By its nature, Cultural tourism will be acceptable to local communities because it recognizes what is important to them. It brings economic benefit and retains and resource itself.
Our cultural environment is continually changing. Once a community has identified its most valued features it can then encourage compatible change and growth.
The distinguishing features of cultural tourism are that:
- The traveler's experience is authentic and of high quality.
- It gives value for money.
- It aims to convey meaning rather than simply to describe or give lists of facts.
- It gives the traveler an appreciation of the richness and diversity of a place.
- It helps put local experience into a wider context, giving those experiences greater meaning.
- It is active and involving both for travelers and local communities.
- It tries to make sure that features of interest are responsibly managed.
-It targets particular interest groups or market segments rather than trying to appeal to the mass market.