Getting Started: How to Succeed in Cultural Heritage Tourism
principles and four
steps outlined in this section
were first developed by the National Trust for Historic Preservation and released in 1993 with the publication of the
American Express funded publication, Getting Started: How
to Succeed in Heritage Tourism. The principles were developed
during an intensive three-year initiative funded in part
by the National Endowment for the Arts. During that initiative,
the National Trust for Historic Preservation worked with sixteen pilot areas in four
states—Indiana, Tennessee, Texas and Wisconsin. The
program produced measurable results in preservation, tourism,
organization and economic development. It also provided
a rich source of lessons in how to develop and manage cultural
Developing cultural heritage tourism is an incremental
process, and communities will repeat the four steps described
in this section at each stage of development. Keep in mind
that developing a strong cultural heritage program will
require an investment and a commitment—an investment
of financial resources and a commitment of human resources
including strong leadership.
Not every community can have a successful cultural
heritage tourism program. Communities that have lost
too much of their heritage, or not nurtured their cultural
potential may not have the historic, cultural and natural
resources it takes to develop a program that will attract
cultural heritage visitors.
|The National Trust’s definition
of cultural heritage tourism is “traveling
to experience the places and activities that authentically
represent the stories and people of the past and
present. It includes historic, cultural and natural
Tourism is a powerful economic development tool. Tourism
creates jobs, provides new business opportunities and strengthens
local economies. When cultural heritage tourism development
is done right, it also helps to protect our nation’s
natural and cultural treasures and improve the quality
of life for residents and visitors alike.
Linking tourism with heritage and culture can do more
for local economies than promoting them separately. That’s
the core idea in cultural heritage tourism: save your heritage
and your culture, share it with visitors, and reap the
economic benefits of tourism.
CULTURE + HERITAGE = SUSTAINABLE ECONOMIES.
In the past, the tourism industry saw its primary role
as marketing ready products to travelers, such as package
tours to Florida. The mission of the preservation community
is to preserve and protect historic, cultural, and natural
resources. The cultural community is looking for ways to
attract new audiences. Today, tourism, preservation, heritage
and culture are much more likely to overlap. Some state
tourism offices now help develop heritage resources, and
a number of preservation organizations are marketing their
sites to tourists.
By following the guiding five principles and four steps
for getting started or for moving to the next level outlined
in this section, you will increase your chances for both
success and sustainability. Good luck!
The Benefits of Cultural Heritage Tourism
Cultural heritage tourism can have a tremendous
economic impact on local economies. To economic benefits
new businesses, jobs and higher property values, tourism
adds less tangible—but equally important—payoffs.
A well-managed tourism program improves the quality of
life as residents take advantage of the services and
attractions tourism adds. It promotes community pride,
which grows as people work together to develop a thriving
An area that develops its potential for cultural heritage
tourism creates new opportunities for tourists to gain
an understanding of an unfamiliar place, people or time.
With the arrival of visitors in turn come new opportunities
for preservation. Well-interpreted sites teach visitors
their importance, and by extension, the importance of preserving
other such sites elsewhere.
Perhaps the biggest benefit of cultural heritage tourism
is that opportunities increase for diversified economies,
ways to prosper economically while holding on to the characteristics
that make communities special.
The Challenges of Cultural Heritage Tourism
When a community’s heritage is the substance of what
it offers visitors, protecting that heritage is essential.
So a major challenge in cultural heritage tourism programs
is ensuring that increased tourism does not destroy the
very qualities that attract visitors in the first place.
Because tourism is a highly sophisticated, fast-changing
industry, it presents its own challenges. Tourism is generally
a “clean” industry; no smokestacks or dangerous
chemicals. But it does put demands on the infrastructure—on
roads, airports, water supplies, and public services like
police and fire protection.
These problems—travelers increasing in numbers and
adding stress and strain to infrastructure and heritage
sites—are, as Safer says, only beginning, and the
travel industry is already addressing them. But a challenge
results not only from visitor impact, but also from visitor
expectations of quality products and services. Tourism
is essentially a service industry, which means it depends
on the competence of people in many different jobs and
locations. Tourism, while not a panacea, is an attractive
form of economic development.
National Trust for Historic Preservation ®
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