It is worth noting that the distinction between heritage tourism and cultural tourism has not been easy to draw. Researchers have devoted their time in an attempt to establish whether the two are different or they just overlap (Timothy, 2011). The key partners in the tourism sector have worked hard to find a way to define and distinguish cultural and heritage tourism. The subject has generated extensive debates seeking to find whether the two terms are the same and how to use them (Swarbrooke, 2001).
Cultural tourism is defined as a type of tourism which deals with the country’s culture. It has a major focus on the diverse cultures that different communities have. It is sometimes pegged on the art of the community. It also takes interest in the unique social diversity of one community in a region (Timothy & Nyaupane, 2009). The distinct features of one community, for instance art, which makes it distinguishable, are considered cultural tourism. Cultural tourism is mainly found in urban setting whereby large cities and their cultural sites are held very core to tourism (Oxford English Dictionary, 2008)
Cultural tourism has also been defined as a type of tourism concerned with the lifestyle of the people in a given country or region. This second definition is aligned to the activities that people engage in rather than the sites (Smith, 2003).The historical practices that dictate the life style of one community form a main element of cultural tourism. This type of tourism is not only restricted to urban areas but tourists sometimes monitor rural community’s festivals. The museums and theatres in many countries are the main reasons why cultural tourism has been considered to be urban based. In regions whereby theatres and museums are located in the rural areas, cultural tourism becomes strictly rural (Shackley, 1998).
Cultural tourism encompasses movement of people from the residents to gather necessary information from different cultural backgrounds. The new information and the experiences of traveling are the key purpose of cultural tourism. At the end of the day a cultural tourist seeks to satisfy the cultural needs. The main destinations in cultural tourism are strictly cultural areas such as historical sites, festivals and natural ecosystems (Ooi, 2002).
Heritage tourism on other hand is defined as any thing that a community receives as a transmission from the past to the present. Such transmissions in the present involve cultural materials, intangible heritage and natural heritage (Timothy & Boyd, 2003). The guiding rule in preservation is to the effect that it’s the uniqueness of the site to the present and future generations. For it to be heritage tourism people must be moving from one preserved site to the other (Smith & Robinson, 2006).
Heritage definition has the word culture. Heritage is thus defined as the travelling by people from one site to another so as to present people’s stories from the past to the present. In the said travel, culture has been a facilitating tool. The activities surrounding culture have been the core interest of heritage. It has been stated that heritage tourism is increasingly becoming popular in many parts of the world today. A tourist in the heritage tourism is motivated by the presence of heritage site since heritage is the main product which shapes heritage tourism (Ronchi, 2008).
Numerous explanations seeking to show how distinct the cultural tourism is from heritage tourism have been raised. The endless debate to distinguish the two proves that differentiating the two is a complex phenomenon. The distinguishable elements are not only in the definition but the location of the sites (Richards, 2001).
Heritage tourism has several characteristics. First it ranges from sites considered relatively small to international sites. The small site normally not staffed while major attractions are well coordinated and staffed. Small heritage sites have few visitors and they are expected at a certain time of the year (Singh, 2002). Heritage sites also have natural resources and admissions to view those sites are free and at a time charged according to the market rate (Graham & Howard, 2008). There has been a perception that heritage site are managed for tourism purposes but there are other heritage which are protected (National Trust for Historic Preservation in the United States, 1991).
Promotion of authenticity has been one of the major characteristics of heritage tourism. It consists of having a competent visitor services delivery which offering quality products. The benefits offered to a visitor always vary depending on the visitor experiences (Moufakkir & Kelly, 2010).
It has been argued that heritage and cultural tourism are hard to consider as distinct. The above definitions clearly indicate that the two types of tourism tend to overlap each other. It has been further asserted that the areas which overlap are more than the notable differences (Singh, 2005).The main unanswered question has been how to distinguish between a cultural and heritage visitor. The two are the same and a suggestion to create well rounded cultural heritage tourism experiences has been a fostered by key tourism stakeholders all over the world today (Millar, 1999).
A survey between the two types of tourism basing on the programs in heritage and cultural tourism shows that many of the heritage programs are found in rural areas. On the other hand, Cultural sites are found in urban settings (Mori, 1995). The classification of the two programs has often been pegged on the location of the sites which distinguish them (Richards, 1996). In describing historical preservation, the word heritage tourism is used while in cultural tourism programs, museums and theatres are evident. In the preservation of the sites for tourism purposes, it is clear that what is termed as the culture of today becomes the heritage in the future (McIntosh & Goeldner, 1986).
There are clear differences between heritage tourism and cultural tourism. Heritage tourism is said to be place based compared to cultural tourism. Heritage tourism is attached to the place while cultural tourism rests on the experience with minimum or no emphasis on the place. In other words the content of cultural and heritage tourism has always been the same but the context differs (Leask, 2008).
Though the definition and understanding of cultural and heritage tourism has been hard to distinguish, it is still clear that lay people and visitors attach some different meanings to the two. However, in the broad sense the two words have been used interchangeably. An imagination of a distinct definition between heritage tourism and cultural tourism has been extremely pursued (Kockel, 1994).
The main reason as to why different researchers and other interested parties have sought the distinction between the two is grounded on the reason that different tourists find the two different. The various reasons that people visit heritage sites have triggered the need to have a definition (Leask & Fyall, 2006).The complexity of definition has been promoted by the fact that a cultural tourist will visit a heritage site with a reason while on the contrary a casual tourist visits a heritage site due for adventure. The attraction is sometimes used to discover a site for the first time (Howard & Ashworth, 1999).
To unfold the complexity introduced by the definition and why it is necessary to define heritage sites, it is important to state that the object of heritage tourism is the people. It follows that it is complex to define heritage tourism since it has different meanings to different people (Hoffman, 2006).The unique way in which different individuals perceive heritage site dictates the nature of experiences to be achieved by the tourist. There are those who view a heritage site as a place whereby they go for holidays. On the other hand, there others who collect information from such sites (Agarwal & Shaw, 2007).
The cultural background of an individual helps in understanding heritage tourism. It has also been asserted that it is not possible to distinguish cultural influences from the understanding of heritage tourism. What the Americans consider to be the reasons to visiting a heritage site may be understood differently by someone in Australia (Hannerz, 1992). The main reason for such variations is the fact different places have different types of heritage sites (Timothy & Boyd, 2006)There are those that have natural places as the sites while others attach heritage to the meaning that the people in a given place are unique. From the above discussion, it is clear that there is no uniform definition for heritage tourism (Hall & Jenkins, 2003).
The need to unveil the complexity behind the definition of heritage tourism stems for the fact that in recent year’s heritage has become a commodity which is capable of being sold. The selling includes substantial marketing which requires diverse knowledge. Many heritage sites in the world have been widely advertised to allow tourism attraction (Hall & McArthur, 1996).In order to attract the target group one ought to be aware of the cultural meanings of a heritage. There are some parts whereby heritage is not a tourism product since people believe that it represents ancestry. Some are strictly opposed to its commercialization (Sharma, 2004).Such opposition is very evident in rural sites. Many still argue that it is unfair for people to try to market heritage while they are unable to get an extensive definition on what it means. The fact that heritage sites have been moved to the urban centers means to many that the meaning attached to them has been lost through commodification of the sites (Goeldner & Ritchie, 2009).
The intangible nature of culture has made heritage complex since it has pegged much value to the experience of the site rather than the site. At a time when tourism just like any other commodity in the market is determined by the forces of demand and supply, there are interpretations created in understanding the term and its outcome. The assertion that heritage tourism has assisted in preservation of sites has been viewed as promoting the traditional view of heritage sites being a place to remind people of their ancestry (Fyall, Leask, & Wanhill, 2008).
The conflict in understanding between the effectiveness of demand and those that believe that heritage is important and should be preserved while others think that heritage is a commercial product. The only way to harmonize the two conflicting sides is by finding a definition to the suit the two sides (Goh, 2010).To reach that definition has been hard hence presenting the situation in complex state. Irrespective of the complexities presented by the definition different researchers have tried to simplify the definition by introducing the three categories of heritage tourism (Drummond, S. et al, 2000)
The first category of heritage tourism is the heritage status attributed to the visited site. Secondly, the visitor’s knowledge of the status given to the site is equally important (Herbert, 1995). Lastly, the relationship between the visitor’s personal heritage and the site is also considered. The categorization of heritage tourism simplifies the complexity (Drummond & Yeoman, 2001).
The above discussions show how hard it has been to come up with a universal definition to suit heritage tourism. At the same footing, it has also proved hard to differentiate heritage from cultural tourism (Palang, & Fry, 2003). The greatest hurdle which has overtime made it hard to get the definition is the interpersonal differences witnessing in perceiving the word heritage. The naming of the world’s heritage sites by UNESCO has continued each and every day but it has been hard to get a definition which stands for heritage tourism (Dasgupta, Biswas & Mallik, 2009).
I would suggest that the suitable universal definition for heritage tourism is: the experience one gets when visiting historical and cultural places. The definition is centered on the experiences rather than the places visited. This is grounded on the fact that every day different heritage sites are created and hence a more conclusive definition must state the experience and not the site.
The distinction between cultural and heritage tourism is based on form and not substance. The features which make the cultural heritage are sometimes the characteristics of heritage tourism depending on the place. There are notable differences between the two as here above mentioned. The complexity in the definition of heritage tourism is worth unveiling so as to get the different context that people adopt. The suggested definition is also critical to assess since it seeks to harmonize the views of different people to create a universal definition which cuts across to different people.
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