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How Does Tourism Affect Culture

Published: December 12, 2023

Modified: December 28, 2023

by Dorolisa Templin

  • Arts & Culture
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Introduction

Travel and tourism have become increasingly popular activities in recent years, with people from all over the world exploring new destinations and immersing themselves in different cultures. While tourism brings numerous benefits, such as economic growth and job opportunities, it also has some less desirable effects on culture. In this article, we will examine the impact of tourism on culture, including its economic, social, environmental, and cultural aspects.

When tourists visit a new destination, they bring with them their own set of beliefs, customs, and behaviors. These interactions between tourists and the local community can significantly influence the cultural dynamics of a place. It is crucial to understand how tourism affects culture to ensure that the positive aspects are maximized, while the negative repercussions are minimized.

Over the years, the global tourism industry has grown exponentially, resulting in an increasing number of tourists venturing to various parts of the world. This influx of visitors can put immense pressure on the local culture and traditions.

In the following sections, we will explore how tourism affects culture from different perspectives, including the economic impact, social impact, environmental impact, and cultural impact. We will also delve into the challenges and issues that arise in preserving culture amidst the growth of tourism, as well as strategies to strike a balance between tourism and cultural preservation.

Additionally, we will examine real-life case studies that illustrate the effect of tourism on culture. These examples will serve to highlight the diversity of experiences and shed light on the various ways tourism can shape and transform a culture.

By understanding the complexities of tourism’s impact on culture, we can work towards creating sustainable and responsible tourism practices that not only benefit the economy but also respect and preserve the cultural heritage of communities around the world. Join us as we delve into this fascinating topic and explore the multifaceted relationship between tourism and culture.

Economic Impact of Tourism on Culture

The economic impact of tourism on culture is significant and multifaceted. Tourism can boost the local economy by creating jobs and generating revenue through visitor spending. When tourists visit a destination, they often engage in various cultural activities, such as visiting museums, attending traditional events, or purchasing local handicrafts. These activities contribute to the preservation and promotion of the local culture, while also providing economic benefits to the community.

One of the key economic benefits of tourism is the creation of employment opportunities. As tourism increases, there is a growing demand for workers in various sectors such as hospitality, transportation, and retail. This leads to job creation, reducing unemployment rates and improving the standard of living for local residents. Additionally, the revenue generated from tourism can be reinvested in the cultural sector, supporting the development and maintenance of cultural sites and activities.

Moreover, tourism can stimulate entrepreneurship and the growth of small businesses within the local community. Local artisans and craftsmen can showcase and sell their products to tourists, providing a sustainable source of income and contributing to the preservation of traditional crafts. This not only supports the local economy but also helps to promote and preserve unique cultural traditions.

However, it is essential to strike a balance between economic growth and the preservation of culture. The pursuit of economic benefits should not come at the expense of cultural integrity. It is crucial to implement sustainable tourism practices that respect and preserve the authenticity of local culture, ensuring that economic growth is coupled with cultural preservation.

Overall, the economic impact of tourism on culture can be highly beneficial if managed responsibly. By leveraging the economic opportunities that tourism presents, while also respecting and preserving cultural heritage, destinations can create a sustainable and thriving tourism industry that benefits both the local economy and the cultural richness of the community.

Social Impact of Tourism on Culture

Tourism has a significant social impact on culture, both positive and negative. It brings people from different backgrounds together, fostering multicultural exchanges and promoting understanding and tolerance. However, it can also lead to social disruptions and conflicts if not managed properly.

One of the positive social impacts of tourism on culture is the promotion of cultural exchange and appreciation. When tourists visit a destination, they often engage with the local community, interact with locals, and learn about their traditions, customs, and way of life. This exchange of ideas and experiences can lead to a greater understanding and respect for diverse cultures, promoting global citizenship and breaking down cultural barriers.

Furthermore, tourism can empower local communities, especially marginalized groups, by providing them with opportunities to showcase their culture and traditions. Indigenous communities, for example, can use tourism as a platform to share their rich cultural heritage, enabling them to preserve their traditions and generate income at the same time. This empowerment can boost self-esteem, cultural pride, and preserve the social fabric of the community.

However, tourism can also have negative social impacts on culture. The influx of tourists can cause overcrowding and disrupt the daily lives of locals. Traditional communities may experience changes in their social dynamics, as they adapt to cater to the preferences and demands of tourists. Additionally, there can be instances of cultural commodification, where cultural practices are commercialized for the sake of tourism, leading to the dilution or distortion of authentic traditions.

It is crucial to mitigate the negative social impacts of tourism by implementing sustainable tourism practices and fostering community engagement. Local communities should be actively involved in decision-making processes, ensuring their voices are heard and their cultural needs are considered. This can include regulating visitor numbers, promoting responsible tourism behavior, and providing locals with opportunities to participate in tourism-related activities.

Overall, the social impact of tourism on culture is complex and multifaceted. By promoting cultural exchange, empowering local communities, and fostering responsible tourism practices, we can harness the positive social benefits of tourism while mitigating its negative effects, ultimately creating a harmonious relationship between tourism and culture.

Environmental Impact of Tourism on Culture

The environmental impact of tourism on culture is a critical consideration in sustainable tourism practices. While tourism can contribute to the preservation and conservation of natural and cultural resources, it can also pose significant threats to the environment.

One of the key environmental impacts of tourism on culture is the degradation of natural habitats and ecosystems. The increased visitor footfall in ecologically sensitive areas can disrupt local flora and fauna, leading to habitat destruction and loss of biodiversity. Moreover, improper waste management and pollution associated with tourism activities can contaminate water bodies, degrade air quality, and harm the natural environment.

Cultural sites and heritage buildings can also be adversely affected by tourism activities. A high influx of tourists can result in excessive wear and tear on archaeological sites, monuments, and historical sites. It is crucial to implement proper conservation measures and visitor management strategies to protect these cultural treasures.

However, tourism can also have a positive environmental impact on culture. Sustainable tourism practices that prioritize environmental conservation can help protect natural resources and preserve cultural heritage. Responsible tourism initiatives such as eco-tourism, community-based tourism, and nature conservation projects can contribute to the preservation of the environment while providing opportunities for visitors to experience and appreciate the local culture.

By implementing sustainable tourism practices, such as reducing carbon emissions, minimizing waste generation, conserving water resources, and supporting local conservation efforts, tourism can have a positive impact on the environment and contribute to the long-term preservation of cultural heritage.

Educating tourists about the importance of environmental conservation and cultural preservation is crucial. Tourists should be encouraged to engage in responsible tourism behavior, respecting the natural environment, and adhering to local cultural norms. This can be achieved through informative signage, guided tours, and educational programs that highlight the significance of culture and the environment.

Overall, the environmental impact of tourism on culture is a complex issue. By implementing sustainable practices, raising awareness, and fostering a sense of responsibility among tourists, we can ensure that tourism not only enriches cultural experiences but also contributes to the protection and conservation of the natural environment.

Cultural Impact of Tourism on Culture

The cultural impact of tourism is perhaps one of the most profound and direct effects of tourism on a destination. It influences the local traditions, customs, and identity of a community. The interactions between tourists and the local culture can result in both positive and negative outcomes.

One of the positive cultural impacts of tourism is the revitalization and preservation of traditional cultural practices. When tourists show interest in local traditions, communities may feel a renewed sense of pride in their cultural heritage. This can lead to the preservation and promotion of traditional arts, crafts, music, dances, and festivals. Additionally, tourism can provide economic incentives for the continued practice of these cultural activities.

Tourism can also create platforms for cultural exchange, promoting intercultural understanding and appreciation. Through interaction with visitors, locals have the opportunity to share their stories, traditions, and beliefs, fostering a sense of mutual respect and understanding. This cultural exchange can challenge stereotypes, break down barriers, and foster empathy among people from different backgrounds.

However, there are also negative cultural impacts associated with tourism. One such impact is the erosion of local culture under the influence of mass tourism. When a destination becomes overly reliant on tourism, there is the potential for the commodification and commercialization of culture, where authenticity is compromised for the sake of catering to tourist expectations. This can lead to the loss of cultural integrity and the homogenization of local traditions.

Furthermore, the sheer volume of tourists in popular destinations can disrupt the social fabric of local communities. The influx of tourists can lead to overcrowding, making it challenging for locals to maintain their way of life and feel a sense of belonging in their own neighborhoods. This can result in tensions between residents and tourists and a loss of cultural cohesion.

It is crucial to strike a balance between tourism and cultural preservation. This can be achieved by implementing sustainable tourism practices that prioritize cultural preservation, empowering local communities in decision-making processes, and promoting authentic and responsible cultural experiences. Encouraging visitors to interact respectfully with the local culture and educating them about cultural norms and traditions can also help mitigate negative cultural impacts.

Overall, the cultural impact of tourism on culture is both complex and influential. By recognizing and addressing the positive and negative outcomes, destinations can harness the power of tourism to foster cultural appreciation, preserve local traditions, and create meaningful and authentic cultural experiences for both locals and visitors.

Challenges and Issues in Tourism and Cultural Preservation

While tourism has the potential to positively impact cultural preservation, it also poses significant challenges and issues that need to be addressed to ensure the long-term sustainability and preservation of culture. These challenges include:

Over tourism: Overcrowding of popular destinations due to excessive tourism can place immense pressure on local communities and their cultural heritage. The sheer number of visitors can lead to the degradation of cultural sites, erosion of authentic traditions, and a loss of quality of life for residents.

Cultural commodification: There is a risk of cultural commodification, where cultural practices and traditions are exaggerated or distorted solely for the purpose of attracting tourists. This can result in the loss of cultural authenticity and the exploitation of cultural heritage for commercial gain.

Unbalanced economic benefits: Tourism can result in an uneven distribution of economic benefits, with large tourism companies or outside investors reaping the majority of profits while local communities and cultural practitioners receive only minimal benefits. This can lead to socio-economic disparities and the marginalization of local cultures and communities.

Lack of community participation: Inadequate involvement of local communities in tourism planning and decision-making processes can result in the mismanagement and unsustainable development of cultural sites. It is crucial to empower local communities and engage them in shaping tourism policies and practices that align with their cultural values and aspirations.

Inadequate infrastructure and resources: Insufficient infrastructure and resources to support tourism and cultural preservation can hinder effective management and protection of cultural heritage sites. Without proper facilities and sustainable practices, the preservation of culture may be compromised, resulting in irreversible damage.

Climate change and environmental degradation: The impacts of climate change and environmental degradation pose a significant threat to cultural preservation. Rising sea levels, natural disasters, and habitat destruction can lead to the loss of cultural sites and traditions that are closely tied to the environment.

To address these challenges, it is essential to adopt a holistic and sustainable approach to tourism and cultural preservation. This includes the implementation of responsible tourism practices that prioritize cultural authenticity, community involvement, and environmental sustainability. Engaging local communities in decision-making processes and ensuring equitable distribution of economic benefits can also foster a sense of ownership and commitment to preserving culture.

Moreover, raising awareness among tourists about the importance of cultural preservation, encouraging respectful behavior, and promoting sustainable travel choices are all vital in supporting cultural resilience and safeguarding cultural heritage for future generations.

Cultural preservation should be seen as a collective responsibility, involving collaboration between local communities, governments, tourism stakeholders, and visitors. By addressing these challenges and working towards sustainable solutions, we can create a tourism industry that preserves and celebrates the rich cultural diversity of our world.

Strategies for Balancing Tourism and Cultural Preservation

Striking a balance between tourism and cultural preservation is crucial to ensure the long-term sustainability and authenticity of destinations. Here are some key strategies that can help achieve this balance:

1. Sustainable tourism planning: Implementing comprehensive tourism planning that considers the cultural, social, economic, and environmental impacts is essential. This involves conducting thorough impact assessments, setting carrying capacities for tourist sites, and establishing regulations and guidelines to protect cultural heritage.

2. Community involvement: Engaging local communities in decision-making processes is vital for successful cultural preservation. Involving community members in tourism planning, development, and management empowers them to take ownership of their cultural heritage and ensures that their voices are heard.

3. Cultural education and awareness: Educating tourists about the cultural significance of a destination fosters respect and understanding. Providing information and organizing cultural workshops or guided tours can help visitors appreciate the local culture, customs, and traditions, encouraging responsible and respectful behavior.

4. Promotion of sustainable practices: Encouraging sustainable tourism practices is crucial for protecting cultural heritage. This includes promoting responsible travel, supporting local businesses, reducing resource consumption, and minimizing waste generation. Collaborating with tourism operators and businesses to adopt sustainable practices can have a positive impact on both culture and the environment.

5. Development of alternative attractions: Developing alternative attractions and dispersing tourist flows can help alleviate the pressure on overcrowded destinations. By promoting lesser-known sites and encouraging visitors to explore different areas, tourism can be better distributed, benefiting both popular and emerging destinations.

6. Preservation of authenticity: It is essential to preserve and promote cultural authenticity. Encouraging the continued practice of traditional crafts, cuisine, music, and dances, while discouraging the commercialization and dilution of cultural traditions, helps maintain the integrity of the local culture.

7. Capacity building and training: Providing training and capacity-building programs for local communities, tourism operators, and cultural practitioners equips them with the knowledge and skills necessary to manage tourism sustainably. This ensures that cultural preservation is effectively integrated into tourism practices.

8. Collaboration and partnerships: Collaboration between different stakeholders, including government agencies, community organizations, tourism operators, and NGOs, is essential for effective cultural preservation. Building partnerships and fostering dialogue can facilitate the exchange of ideas, resources, and best practices, leading to more sustainable tourism development.

9. Monitoring and evaluation: Regular monitoring and evaluation of tourism impacts on culture are crucial to identify emerging issues and assess the effectiveness of implemented strategies. This allows for adjustments and improvements to be made, ensuring that cultural preservation remains a priority.

By adopting these strategies, destinations can achieve a balance between tourism development and cultural preservation. Promoting responsible tourism practices, involving local communities, and preserving the authenticity of cultural traditions contribute to the long-term sustainability and enjoyment of cultural heritage for both present and future generations.

Case Studies on the Effect of Tourism on Culture

Examining real-life case studies can provide valuable insights into the diverse ways in which tourism can impact culture. Here are two notable examples:

1. Bhutan: Bhutan, a small country in the Himalayas, has gained international recognition for its unique approach to tourism and cultural preservation. In an effort to protect its cultural heritage and promote sustainable tourism, Bhutan has adopted a high-value, low-impact tourism policy. The government regulates tourist numbers through a daily fee and requires visitors to book through authorized tour operators. This approach has allowed Bhutan to carefully manage its cultural sites and traditions while ensuring that tourism benefits local communities. Visitors have the opportunity to immerse themselves in Bhutanese culture, participating in local festivals, engaging with the community, and experiencing traditional arts and crafts. By prioritizing cultural preservation and sustainable tourism practices, Bhutan has successfully maintained its unique cultural identity.

2. Venice, Italy: Venice, known for its historic canals and stunning architecture, has been facing significant cultural challenges due to tourism. The city has experienced an overwhelming influx of tourists, which has put immense pressure on its infrastructure and local lifestyle. The overwhelming number of visitors has caused congestion, increased pollution, and driven up housing prices, leading to the displacement of local residents. As a result, Venice has been grappling with the preservation of its cultural heritage and ensuring the well-being of its residents. To address these issues, the city has implemented measures to manage tourism, including limiting the number of cruise ships, regulating tourist accommodations, and promoting responsible visitor behavior. These efforts aim to strike a balance between preserving the city’s cultural heritage and creating a sustainable tourism industry that respects the local community’s way of life.

These case studies highlight the importance of proactive measures in managing the impact of tourism on culture. By implementing well-designed policies, destinations can protect their cultural heritage, support local communities, and create a harmonious relationship between tourism and culture.

The relationship between tourism and culture is a complex and dynamic one. Tourism has the potential to bring both positive and negative impacts on the preservation and promotion of culture. It is crucial to strike a balance that ensures the long-term sustainability and authenticity of cultural heritage while harnessing the economic and social benefits that tourism can bring.

Throughout this article, we have explored the economic, social, environmental, and cultural impacts of tourism on culture. We have seen that responsible tourism practices can create opportunities for economic growth, job creation, and cultural preservation. By engaging with local communities, promoting sustainable practices, and empowering cultural practitioners, tourism can generate positive social and economic outcomes while respecting and promoting local traditions.

However, challenges and issues exist that must be addressed. From over-tourism to cultural commodification, these challenges require thoughtful strategies and collaboration between various stakeholders. It is essential to involve local communities in decision-making processes and prioritize the preservation of cultural authenticity and integrity.

Real-life case studies have provided valuable insights into how destinations navigate the complex relationship between tourism and cultural preservation. From Bhutan’s successful approach to sustainable tourism to the challenges faced by Venice, these examples illustrate the importance of proactive measures and responsible tourism practices in achieving a balance that benefits both cultural preservation and the tourism industry itself.

In conclusion, by adopting strategies that prioritize cultural preservation, responsible tourism behavior, community involvement, and sustainable development, destinations can create a thriving tourism industry while safeguarding their cultural heritage. The effective management of tourism’s impact on culture requires collaboration, education, and continuous monitoring to ensure that future generations can enjoy and appreciate the rich diversity of cultures around the world.

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Tourism Teacher

13 Social impacts of tourism + explanations + examples

Understanding the social impacts of tourism is vital to ensuring the sustainable management of the tourism industry. There are positive social impacts of tourism, demonstrating benefits to both the local community and the tourists. There are also negative social impacts of tourism.

In this article I will explain what the most common social impacts of tourism are and how these are best managed. At the end of the post I have also included a handy reading list for anybody studying travel and tourism or for those who are interested in learning more about travel and tourism management.

The social impacts of tourism

Preserving local culture, strengthening communities, provision of social services, commercialisation of culture and art, revitalisation of culture and art, preservation of heritage, social change, globalisation and the destruction of preservation and heritage, loss of authenticity , standardisation and commercialisation, culture clashes, tourist-host relationships, increase in crime, gambling and moral behaviour, social impacts of tourism: conclusion, social impacts of tourism- further reading.

Firstly, we need to understand what is meant by the term ‘social impacts of tourism’. I have covered this in my YouTube video below!

To put it simply, social impacts of tourism are; 

“The effects on host communities of direct and indirect relations with tourists , and of interaction with the tourism industry”

This is also often referred to as socio-cultural impacts.

Tourism is, at its core, an interactive service. This means that host-guest interaction is inevitable. This can have significant social/socio-cultural impacts.

These social impacts can be seen as benefits or costs (good or bad). I will explain these below.

happy friends on camper van roof

Positive social impacts of tourism

There are many social benefits of tourism, demonstrating positive social impacts. These might include; preserving the local culture and heritage; strengthening communities; provision of social services; commercialisation of culture and art; revitalisation of customs and art forms and the preservation of heritage.

thai temple under blue sky

It is the local culture that the tourists are often coming to visit.

Tourists visit Beijing to learn more about the Chinese Dynasties. Tourists visit Thailand to taste authentic Thai food. Tourists travel to Brazil to go to the Rio Carnival, to mention a few…

Many destinations will make a conserved effort to preserve and protect the local culture. This often contributes to the conservation and sustainable management of natural resources, the protection of local heritage, and a renaissance of indigenous cultures, cultural arts and crafts.

In one way, this is great! Cultures are preserved and protected and globalisation is limited. BUT, I can’t help but wonder if this is always natural? We don’t walk around in Victorian corsets or smoke pipes anymore…

Our social settings have changed immensely over the years. And this is a normal part of evolution! So is it right that we should try to preserve the culture of an area for the purposes of tourism? Or should we let them grow and change, just as we do? Something to ponder on I guess…

Tourism can be a catalyst for strengthening a local community.

Events and festivals of which local residents have been the primary participants and spectators are often rejuvenated and developed in response to tourist interest. I certainly felt this was the way when I went to the Running of the Bulls festival in Pamplona, Spain. The community atmosphere and vibe were just fantastic!

history of the running of the bulls

The jobs created by tourism can also be a great boost for the local community. Aside from the economic impacts created by enhanced employment prospects, people with jobs are happier and more social than those without a disposable income.

Local people can also increase their influence on tourism development, as well as improve their job and earnings prospects, through tourism-related professional training and development of business and organisational skills.

Read also: Economic leakage in tourism explained

girl in white long sleeve shirt and black skirt sitting on swing during day time

The tourism industry requires many facilities/ infrastructure to meet the needs of the tourist. This often means that many developments in an area as a result of tourism will be available for use by the locals also.

Local people often gained new roads, new sewage systems, new playgrounds, bus services etc as a result of tourism. This can provide a great boost to their quality of life and is a great example of a positive social impact of tourism.

Tourism can see rise to many commercial business, which can be a positive social impact of tourism. This helps to enhance the community spirit as people tend to have more disposable income as a result.

These businesses may also promote the local cultures and arts. Museums, shows and galleries are fantastic way to showcase the local customs and traditions of a destination. This can help to promote/ preserve local traditions.

red art relaxation girl

Some destinations will encourage local cultures and arts to be revitalised. This may be in the form of museum exhibitions, in the way that restaurants and shops are decorated and in the entertainment on offer, for example.

This may help promote traditions that may have become distant.

Many tourists will visit the destination especially to see its local heritage. It is for this reason that many destinations will make every effort to preserve its heritage.

This could include putting restrictions in place or limiting tourist numbers, if necessary. This is often an example of careful tourism planning  and sustainable tourism management.

This text by Hyung You Park explains the principles of heritage tourism in more detail.

Negative social impacts of tourism

Unfortunately, there are a large number of socio-cultural costs on the host communities. These negative social impacts include; social change; changing values; increased crime and gambling; changes in moral behaviour; changes in family structure and roles; problems with the tourist-host relationship and the destruction of heritage.

unrecognizable female black player sitting on football field

Social change is basically referring to changes in the way that society acts or behaves. Unfortunately, there are many changes that come about as a result of tourism that are not desirable.

There are many examples throughout the world where local populations have changed because of tourism.

Perhaps they have changed the way that they speak or the way that they dress. Perhaps they have been introduced to alcohol through the tourism industry or they have become resentful of rich tourists and turned to crime. These are just a few examples of the negative social impacts of tourism.

Read also: Business tourism explained: What, why and where

woman in white and red dress holding yellow flowers

Globalisation is the way in which the world is becoming increasingly connected. We are losing our individuality and gaining a sense of ‘global being’, whereby we are more and more alike than ever before.

Globalisation is inevitable in the tourism industry because of the interaction between tourists and hosts, which typically come from different geographic and cultural backgrounds. It is this interaction that encourage us to become more alike.

Here are some examples:

  • When I went on the Jungle Book tour on my travels through Goa, the tourists were giving the Goan children who lived in the area sweets. These children would never have eaten such sweets should they not have come into contact with the tourists.
  • When I travelled to The Gambia I met a local worker (known as a ‘ bumster ‘) who was wearing a Manchester United football top. When I asked him about it he told me that he was given the top by a tourist who visited last year. If it was not for said tourist, he would not have this top.
  • In Thailand , many workers have exchanged their traditional work of plowing the fields to work in the cities, in the tourism industry. They have learnt to speak English and to eat Western food. If it were not for the tourists they would have a different line of work, they would not speak English and they would not choose to eat burger and chips for their dinner!

Many people believe globalisation to be a bad thing. BUT, there are also some positives. Think about this…

Do you want an ‘authentic’ squat toilet in your hotel bathroom or would you rather use a Western toilet? Are you happy to eat rice and curry for breakfast as the locals would do or do you want your cornflakes? Do you want to struggle to get by when you don’t speak the local language or are you pleased to find somebody who speaks English?

When we travel, most tourists do want a sense of ‘familiar’. And globalisation helps us to get that!

positive impacts of cultural tourism

You can learn more about globalisation in this post- What is globalisation? A simple explanation .

bread with soup

Along similar lines to globalisation is the loss of authenticity that often results from tourism.

Authenticity is essentially something that is original or unchanged. It is not fake or reproduced in any way.

The Western world believe that a tourist destination is no longer authentic when their cultural values and traditions change. But I would argue is this not natural? Is culture suppose to stay the same or it suppose to evolve throughout each generation? 

Take a look at the likes of the long neck tribe in Thailand or the Maasai Tribe in Africa. These are two examples of cultures which have remained ‘unchanged’ for the sole purpose of tourism. They appear not to have changed the way that they dress, they way that they speak or the way that they act in generations, all for the purpose of tourism.

To me, however, this begs the question- is it actually authentic? In fact, is this not the exact example of what is not authentic? The rest of the world have modern electricity and iPhones, they watch TV and buy their clothes in the nearest shopping mall. But because tourists want an ‘authentic’ experience, these people have not moved on with the rest of the world, but instead have remained the same.

I think there is also an ethical discussion to be had here, but I’ll leave that for another day…

You can learn more about what is authenticity in tourism here or see some examples of staged authenticity in this post.

Read also: Environmental impacts of tourism

Similarly, destinations risk standardisation in the process of satisfying tourists’ desires for familiar facilities and experiences.

While landscape, accommodation, food and drinks, etc., must meet the tourists’ desire for the new and unfamiliar, they must at the same time not be too new or strange because few tourists are actually looking for completely new things (think again about the toilet example I have previously).

Tourists often look for recognisable facilities in an unfamiliar environment, like well-known fast-food restaurants and hotel chains. Tourist like some things to be standardised (the toilet, their breakfast, their drinks, the language spoken etc), but others to be different (dinner options, music, weather, tourist attractions etc).

Do we want everything to become ‘standardised’ though? I know I miss seeing the little independent shops that used to fill the high streets in the UK. Now it’s all chains and multinational corporations. Sure, I like Starbucks (my mug collection is coming on quite nicely!), but I also love the way that there are no Starbucks in Italy. There’s something great about trying out a traditional, yet unfamiliar coffee shop, or any independant place for that matter.

I personally think that tourism industry stakeholders should proceed with caution when it comes to ‘standardisation’. Sure, give the tourists that sense of familiar that they are looking for. But don’t dilute the culture and traditions of the destination that they are coming to visit, because if it feels too much like home….. well, maybe they will just stay at home next time? Just a little something to think about…

woman in white tank top doing yoga exercise

On a less philosophical note, another of the negative social impacts of tourism is that it can have significant consequences is culture clashes.

Because tourism involves movement of people to different geographical locations cultural clashes can take place as a result of differences in cultures, ethnic and religious groups, values, lifestyles, languages and levels of prosperity.

The attitude of local residents towards tourism development may unfold through the stages of euphoria, where visitors are very welcome, through apathy, irritation and potentially antagonism when anti-tourist attitudes begin to grow among local people. This is represented in Doxey’s Irritation Index, as shown below.

positive impacts of cultural tourism

Culture clashes can also be exasperated by the fundamental differences in culture between the hosts and the tourists.

There is likely to be economic inequality between locals and tourists who are spending more than they usually do at home. This can cause resentment from the hosts towards the tourists, particularly when they see them wearing expensive jewellery or using plush cameras etc that they know they can’t afford themselves.

Further to this, tourists often, out of ignorance or carelessness, fail to respect local customs and moral values. 

Think about it. Is it right to go topless on a beach if within the local culture it is unacceptable to show even your shoulders?

There are many examples of ways that tourists offend the local population , often unintentionally. Did you know that you should never put your back to a Buddha? Or show the sole of your feet to a Thai person? Or show romantic affection in public in the Middle East?

A little education in this respect could go a long way, but unfortunately, many travellers are completely unaware of the negative social impacts that their actions may have.

The last of the social impacts of tourism that I will discuss is crime, gambling and moral behaviour. Crime rates typically increase with the growth and urbanisation of an area and the growth of mass tourism is often accompanied by increased crime.

The presence of a large number of tourists with a lot of money to spend and often carrying valuables such as cameras and jewellery increases the attraction for criminals and brings with it activities like robbery and drug dealing.

Although tourism is not the cause of sexual exploitation, it provides easy access to it e.g. prostitution and sex tourism . Therefore, tourism can contribute to rises in the numbers of sex workers in a given area. I have seen this myself in many places including The Gambia and Thailand .

Lastly, gambling is a common occurrence as a result of tourism. Growth of casinos and other gambling facilities can encourage not only the tourists to part with their cash, but also the local population .

As I have demonstrated in this post, there are many social impacts of tourism. Whilst some impacts are positive, most unfortunately are negative impacts.

Hopefully this post on the social impacts of tourism has helped you to think carefully about the impacts that your actions may have on the local community that you are visiting. I also hope that it has encouraged some deeper thinking with regards to issues such as globalisation, authenticity and standardisation.

If you are interested in learning more about topics such as this subscribe to my newsletter ! I send out travel tips, discount coupons and some material designed to get you thinking about the wider impacts of the tourism industry (like this post)- perfect for any tourism student or keen traveller!

As you can see, the social impacts of tourism are an important consideration for all industry stakeholders. Do you have any comments on the social impacts of tourism? Leave your comments below.

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Cutting Edge | Bringing cultural tourism back in the game

positive impacts of cultural tourism

The growth of cultural tourism

People have long traveled to discover and visit places of historical significance or spiritual meaning, to experience different cultures, as well as to learn about, exchange and consume a range of cultural goods and services. Cultural tourism as a concept gained traction during the 1990s when certain sub-sectors emerged, including heritage tourism, arts tourism, gastronomic tourism, film tourism and creative tourism. This took place amidst the rising tide of globalization and technological advances that spurred greater mobility through cheaper air travel, increased accessibility to diverse locations and cultural assets, media proliferation, and the rise of independent travel. Around this time, tourism policy was also undergoing a shift that was marked by several trends. These included a sharper focus on regional development, environmental issues, public-private partnerships, industry self-regulation and a reduction in direct government involvement in the supply of tourism infrastructure. As more cultural tourists have sought to explore the cultures of the destinations, greater emphasis has been placed on the importance of intercultural dialogue to promote understanding and tolerance. Likewise, in the face of globalization, countries have looked for ways to strengthen local identity, and cultural tourism has also been engaged as a strategy to achieve this purpose. Being essentially place-based, cultural tourism is driven by an interest to experience and engage with culture first-hand. It is backed by a desire to discover, learn about and enjoy the tangible and intangible cultural assets offered in a tourism destination, ranging from heritage, performing arts, handicrafts, rituals and gastronomy, among others.

Cultural tourism is a leading priority for the majority of countries around the world -featuring in the tourism policy of 90% of countries, based on a 2016 UNWTO global survey . Most countries include tangible and intangible heritage in their definition of cultural tourism, and over 80% include contemporary culture - film, performing arts, design, fashion and new media, among others. There is, however, greater need for stronger localisation in policies, which is rooted in promoting and enhancing local cultural assets, such as heritage, food, festivals and crafts. In France, for instance, the Loire Valley between Sully-sur-Loire and Chalonnes , a UNESCO World Heritage site, has established a multidisciplinary team that defends the cultural values of the site, and advises the authorities responsible for the territorial development of the 300 km of the Valley.

While cultural tourism features prominently in policies for economic growth, it has diverse benefits that cut across the development spectrum – economic, social and environmental. Cultural tourism expands businesses and job opportunities by drawing on cultural resources as a competitive advantage in tourism markets. Cultural tourism is increasingly engaged as a strategy for countries and regions to safeguard traditional cultures, attract talent, develop new cultural resources and products, create creative clusters, and boost the cultural and creative industries. Cultural tourism, particularly through museums, can support education about culture. Tourist interest can also help ensure the transmission of intangible cultural heritage practices to younger generations.

positive impacts of cultural tourism

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Cultural tourism can help encourage appreciation of and pride in local heritage, thus sparking greater interest and investment in its safeguarding. Tourism can also drive inclusive community development to foster resiliency, inclusivity, and empowerment. It promotes territorial cohesion and socioeconomic inclusion for the most vulnerable populations, for example, generating economic livelihoods for women in rural areas. A strengthened awareness of conservation methods and local and indigenous knowledge contributes to long-term environmental sustainability. Similarly, the funds generated by tourism can be instrumental to ensuring ongoing conservation activities for built and natural heritage.

The growth of cultural tourism has reshaped the global urban landscape over the past decades, strongly impacting spatial planning around the world. In many countries, cultural tourism has been leveraged to drive urban regeneration or city branding strategies, from large-sized metropolises in Asia or the Arab States building on cultural landmarks and contemporary architecture to drive tourism expansion, to small and middle-sized urban settlements enhancing their cultural assets to stimulate local development. At the national level, cultural tourism has also impacted planning decisions, encouraging coastal development in some areas, while reviving inland settlements in others. This global trend has massively driven urban infrastructure development through both public and private investments, impacting notably transportation, the restoration of historic buildings and areas, as well as the rehabilitation of public spaces. The expansion of cultural city networks, including the UNESCO World Heritage Cities programme and the UNESCO Creative Cities Network, also echoes this momentum. Likewise, the expansion of cultural routes, bringing together several cities or human settlements around cultural commonalities to stimulate tourism, has also generated new solidarities, while influencing economic and cultural exchanges between cities across countries and regions.

Despite tourism’s clear potential as a driver for positive change, challenges exist, including navigating the space between economic gain and cultural integrity. Tourism’s crucial role in enhancing inclusive community development can often remain at the margins of policy planning and implementation. Rapid and unplanned tourism growth can trigger a range of negative impacts, including pressure on local communities and infrastructure from overtourism during peak periods, gentrification of urban areas, waste problems and global greenhouse gas emissions. High visitor numbers to heritage sites can override their natural carrying capacity, thus undermining conservation efforts and affecting both the integrity and authenticity of heritage sites. Over-commercialization and folklorization of intangible heritage practices – including taking these practices out of context for tourism purposes - can risk inadvertently changing the practice over time. Large commercial interests can monopolize the benefits of tourism, preventing these benefits from reaching local communities. An excessive dependency on tourism can also create localized monoeconomies at the expense of diversification and alternative economic models. When mismanaged, tourism can, therefore, have negative effects on the quality of life and well-being of local residents, as well as the natural environment.

These fault lines became more apparent when the pandemic hit – revealing the extent of over-dependence on tourism and limited structures for crisis prevention and response. While the current situation facing tourism is unpredictable, making it difficult to plan, further crises are likely in the years to come. Therefore, the pandemic presents the opportunity to experiment with new models to shape more effective and sustainable alternatives for the future.

positive impacts of cultural tourism

hxdyl, Getty Images Pro

Harnessing cultural tourism in policy frameworks

From a policy perspective, countries around the world have employed cultural tourism as a vehicle to achieve a range of strategic aims. In Panama, cultural tourism is a key component of the country’s recently adopted Master Plan for Sustainable Tourism 2020-2025 that seeks to position Panama as a worldwide benchmark for sustainable tourism through the development of unique heritage routes. Cultural tourism can be leveraged for cultural diplomacy as a form of ‘soft power’ to build dialogue between peoples and bolster foreign policy. For instance, enhancing regional cooperation between 16 countries has been at the heart of UNESCO’s transnational Silk Roads Programme, which reflects the importance of culture and heritage as part of foreign policy. UNESCO has also partnered with the EU and National Geographic to develop World Heritage Journeys, a unique travel platform that deepens the tourism experience through four selected cultural routes covering 34 World Heritage sites. Also in Europe, cultural tourism has been stimulated through the development of cultural routes linked to food and wine , as well as actions to protect local food products, such as through labels and certificates of origin. The Emilia-Romagna region in Italy, for example, produces more origin-protected food and drink than any other region in the country. One of the regions' cities Parma - a UNESCO Creative City (Gastronomy) and designated Italian Capital for Culture (2020-2021) - plans to resume its cultural activities to boost tourism once restrictions have eased. Meanwhile, Spain has recently taken steps to revive its tourism industry through its cities inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List . In this regard, the Group of the 15 Spanish World Heritage Cities met recently to discuss the country's Modernization and Competitiveness Plan for the tourism sector. Cultural tourism has progressively featured more prominently in the policies of Central Asian and Eastern European countries, which have sought to revive intangible heritage and boost the creative economy as part of strategies to strengthen national cultural identity and open up to the international community. In Africa, cultural tourism is a growing market that is driven by its cultural heritage, crafts, and national and regional cultural events. Major festivals such as Dak-Art in Senegal, Bamako Encounters Photography Biennial in Mali, Sauti za Busara in United Republic of Tanzania, Pan-African Festival of Cinema and Television of Ouagadougou in Burkina Faso, and Chale Wote Street Art Festival in Ghana are just a handful of vibrant and popular platforms in the continent that share cultural expressions, generate income for local economies and strengthen Pan-African identity.

Countries are increasingly seeking alliances with international bodies to advance tourism. National and local governments are working together with international entities, such as UNESCO, UNWTO and OECD in the area of sustainable tourism. In 2012, UNESCO’s Sustainable Tourism Programme was adopted, thereby breaking new ground to promote tourism a driver for the conservation of cultural and natural heritage and a vehicle for sustainable development. In 2020, UNESCO formed the Task Force on Culture and Resilient Tourism with the Advisory Bodies to the 1972 World Heritage Convention (ICOMOS, IUCN, ICCROM) as a global dialogue platform on key issues relating to tourism and heritage management during and beyond the crisis. UNESCO has also collaborated with the UNWTO on a set of recommendations for inclusive cultural tourism recovery from the COVID-19 crisis. In response to the crisis, the Namibian Government, UNESCO and UNDP are working together on a tourism impact study and development strategy to restore the tourism sector, especially cultural tourism.

UNESCO has scaled up work in cultural tourism in its work at field level, supporting its Member States and strengthening regional initiatives. In the Africa region, enhancing cultural tourism has been reported as a policy priority across the region. For example, UNESCO has supported the Government of Ghana in its initiative Beyond the Return, in particular in relation to its section on cultural tourism. In the Pacific, a Common Country Assessment (CCA) has been carried out for 14 SIDS countries, with joint interagency programmes to be created building on the results. Across the Arab States, trends in tourism after COVID, decent jobs and cultural and creative industries are emerging as entry points for different projects throughout the region. In Europe, UNESCO has continued its interdisciplinary work on visitor centres in UNESCO designated sites, building on a series of workshops to strengthen tourism sustainability, community engagement and education through heritage interpretation. In the Latin America and the Caribbean region, UNESCO is working closely with Member States, regional bodies and the UN system building on the momentum on the International Year of Creative Economy for Sustainable Development, including through Creative Cities, and the sustainable recovery of the orange economy, among others.

positive impacts of cultural tourism

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In the context of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, tourism has the potential to contribute, directly or indirectly, to all of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Tourism is directly mentioned in SDGs 8, 12 and 14 on inclusive and sustainable economic growth, sustainable consumption and production (SCP) and the sustainable use of oceans and marine resources, respectively. This is mirrored in the VNRs put forward by countries, who report on cultural tourism notably through the revitalization of urban and rural areas through heritage regeneration, festivals and events, infrastructure development, and the promotion of local cultural products. The VNRs also demonstrate a trend towards underlining more sustainable approaches to tourism that factor in the environmental dimensions of tourism development.

Several countries have harnessed cultural tourism as a policy panacea for economic growth and diversification. As part of Qatar's National Vision 2030 strategy, for example, the country has embarked on a development plan that includes cultural tourism through strengthening its culture-based industries, including calligraphy, handicrafts and living heritage practices. In the city of Abu Dhabi in the UAE, cultural tourism is part of the city’s plan for economic diversification and to steer its domestic agenda away from a hydrocarbon-based economy. The Plan Abu Dhabi 2030 includes the creation of a US$27 billion cultural district on Saadiyat Island, comprising a cluster of world-renowned museums, and cultural and educational institutions designed by international star architects to attract tourism and talent to the city. Since 2016, Saudi Arabia has taken decisive action to invest in tourism, culture and entertainment to reduce the country’s oil dependency, while also positioning the country as a global cultural destination. Under the 2020 G20 Saudi Presidency, the UNWTO and the G20 Tourism Working Group launched the AlUla Framework for Inclusive Community Development through Tourism to better support inclusive community development and the SDGs. The crucial role of tourism as a means of sustainable socio-economic development was also underlined in the final communique of the G20 Tourism Ministers in October last.

positive impacts of cultural tourism

Siem Reap, Cambodia by nbriam

On the other hand, cultural tourism can catalyse developments in cultural policy. This was the case in the annual Festival of Pacific Arts (FestPac) that triggered a series of positive policy developments following its 2012 edition that sought to strengthen social cohesion and community pride in the context of a prolonged period of social unrest. The following year, Solomon Islands adopted its first national culture policy with a focus on cultural industries and cultural tourism, which resulted in a significant increase in cultural events being organized throughout the country.

When the pandemic hit, the geographic context of some countries meant that many of them were able to rapidly close borders and prioritize domestic tourism. This has been the case for countries such as Australia and New Zealand. However, the restrictions have been coupled by significant economic cost for many Small Island Developing States (SIDS) whose economies rely on tourism and commodity exports. Asia Pacific SIDS, for example, are some of the world’s leading tourist destinations. As reported in the Tracker last June , in 2018, tourism earnings exceeded 50% of GDP in Cook Islands, Maldives and Palau and equaled approximately 30% of GDP in Samoa and Vanuatu. When the pandemic hit in 2020, the drop in British tourists to Spain’s Balearic Islands resulted in a 93% downturn in visitor numbers , forcing many local businesses to close. According to the World Economic Outlook released last October, the economies of tourism-dependent Caribbean nations are estimated to drop by 12%, while Pacific Island nations, such as Fiji, could see their GDP shrink by a staggering 21% in 2020.

Socially-responsible travel and ecotourism have become more of a priority for tourists and the places they visit. Tourists are increasingly aware of their carbon footprint, energy consumption and the use of renewable resources. This trend has been emphasized as a result of the pandemic. According to recent survey by Booking.com, travelers are becoming more conscientious of how and why they travel, with over two-thirds (69%) expecting the travel industry to offer more sustainable travel options . Following the closures of beaches in Thailand, for example, the country is identifying ways to put certain management policies in place that can strike a better balance with environmental sustainability. The  UNESCO Sustainable Tourism Pledge  launched in partnership with Expedia Group focuses on promoting sustainable tourism and heritage conservation. The pledge takes an industry-first approach to environmental and cultural protection, requiring businesses to introduce firm measures to eliminate single-use plastics and promote local culture. The initiative is expanding globally in 2021 as a new, more environmentally and socially conscious global travel market emerges from the COVID-19 context.

positive impacts of cultural tourism

Senja, Norway by Jarmo Piironen

Climate change places a heavy toll on heritage sites, which exacerbates their vulnerability to other risks, including uncontrolled tourism. This was underlined in the publication “World Heritage and Tourism in a Changing Climate” , published by UNESCO, UNEP and the Union of Concerned Scientists, which analyses the consequences of climate change on heritage, and its potential to permanently change or destroy a site’s integrity and authenticity. Extreme weather events, safety issues and water shortages, among others, can thwart access to sites and hurt the economic livelihoods of tourism service providers and local communities. Rising sea levels will increasingly impact coastal tourism, the largest component of the sector globally. In particular, coral reefs - contributing US$11.5 billion to the global tourism economy – are at major risk from climate change.

Marine sites are often tourist magnets where hundreds of thousands of annual visitors enjoy these sites on yachts and cruise ships. In the case of UNESCO World Heritage marine sites – which fall under the responsibility of governments - there is often a reliance on alternative financing mechanisms, such as grants and donations, and partnerships with non-governmental organizations and/or the private sector, among others. The West Norwegian Fjords – Geirangerfjord and Nærøyfjord in Norway derives a substantial portion of its management budget from sources other than government revenues. The site has benefited from a partnership with the private sector company Green Dream 2020, which only allows the “greenest” operators to access the site, and a percentage of the profits from tours is reinjected into the long-term conservation of the site. In iSimangaliso in South Africa, a national law that established the World Heritage site’s management system was accompanied by the obligation to combine the property’s conservation with sustainable economic development activities that created jobs for local people. iSimangaliso Wetland Park supports 12,000 jobs and hosts an environmental education programme with 150 schools. At the Great Barrier Reef in Australia, where 91% of all local jobs are linked to the Reef, the Coral Nurture Programme undertakes conservation through planting coral, and promotes local stewardship and adaptation involving the whole community and local tourist businesses.

positive impacts of cultural tourism

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With borders continuing to be closed and changeable regulations, many countries have placed a focus on domestic tourism and markets to stimulate economic recovery. According to the UNWTO, domestic tourism is expected to pick up faster than international travel, making it a viable springboard for economic and social recovery from the pandemic. In doing so it will serve to better connect populations to their heritage and offer new avenues for cultural access and participation. In China, for example, the demand for domestic travel is already approaching pre-pandemic levels. In Russian Federation, the Government has backed a programme to promote domestic tourism and support small and medium-sized enterprises, as well as a cashback scheme for domestic trips, which entitles tourists to a 20% refund for their trip. While supporting domestic tourism activities, the Government of Palau is injecting funds into local businesses working in reforestation and fishing in the spirit of building new sustainable models. The measures put in place today will shape the tourism to come, therefore the pandemic presents an opportunity to build back a stronger, more agile and sustainable tourism sector.

Local solutions at the helm of cultural tourism

While state-led policy interventions in cultural tourism remain crucial, local authorities are increasingly vital stakeholders in the design and implementation of cultural tourism policies. Being close to the people, local actors are aware of the needs of local populations, and can respond quickly and provide innovative ideas and avenues for policy experimentation. As cultural tourism is strongly rooted to place, cooperating with local decision-makers and stakeholders can bring added value to advancing mutual objectives. Meanwhile, the current health crisis has severely shaken cities that are struggling due to diminished State support, and whose economic basis strongly relies on tourism. Local authorities have been compelled to innovate to support local economies and seek viable alternatives, thus reaffirming their instrumental role in cultural policy-making.

positive impacts of cultural tourism

Venice, Oliver Dralam/Getty Images

Cultural tourism can be a powerful catalyst for urban regeneration and renaissance, although tourism pressure can also trigger complex processes of gentrification. Cultural heritage safeguarding enhances the social value of a place by boosting the well-being of individuals and communities, reducing social inequalities and nurturing social inclusion. Over the past decade, the Malaysian city of George Town – a World Heritage site – has implemented several innovative projects to foster tourism and attract the population back to the city centre by engaging the city’s cultural assets in urban revitalization strategies. Part of the income generated from tourism revenues contributes to conserving and revitalizing the built environment, as well as supporting housing for local populations, including lower-income communities. In the city of Bordeaux in France , the city has worked with the public-private company InCité to introduce a system of public subsidies and tax exemption to encourage the restoration of privately-owned historical buildings, which has generated other rehabilitation works in the historic centre. The city of Kyoto in Japan targets a long-term vision of sustainability by enabling local households to play an active role in safeguarding heritage by incrementally updating their own houses, thus making the city more resilient to gentrification. The city also actively supports the promotion of its intangible heritage, such as tea ceremonies, flower arrangement, seasonal festivals, Noh theatre and dance. This year marks the ten-year anniversary of the adoption of the UNESCO Recommendation on the Historic Urban Landscape (HUL). The results of a UNESCO survey carried out among Member States in 2019 on its implementation show that 89% of respondents have innovative services or tourism activities in place for historic areas, which demonstrates a precedence for countries to capitalize on urban cultural heritage for tourism purposes.

Cultural tourism has been harnessed to address rural-urban migration and to strengthen rural and peripheral sub-regions. The city of Suzhou – a World Heritage property and UNESCO Creative City (Crafts and Folk Art) - has leveraged its silk embroidery industry to strengthen the local rural economy through job creation in the villages of Wujiang, located in a district of Suzhou. Tourists can visit the ateliers and local museums to learn about the textile production. In northern Viet Nam, the cultural heritage of the Quan họ Bắc Ninh folk songs, part of the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity, is firmly rooted in place and underlined in its safeguarding strategies in 49 ancient villages, which have further inspired the establishment of some hundreds of new Quan họ villages in the Bắc Ninh and Bắc Giang provinces.

positive impacts of cultural tourism

Many top destination cities are known for their iconic cultural landmarks. Others create a cultural drawcard to attract visitors to the city. France, the world's number one tourist destination , attracts 89 million visitors every year who travel to experience its cultural assets, including its extensive cultural landmarks. In the context of industrial decline, several national and local governments have looked to diversify infrastructure by harnessing culture as a new economic engine. The Guggenheim museum in Bilbao in Spain is one such example, where economic diversification and unemployment was addressed through building a modern art museum as a magnet for tourism. The museum attracts an average of 900,000 visitors annually, which has strengthened the local economy of the city. A similar approach is the Museum of Old and New Art (MONA), established in 2011 by a private entrepreneur in the city of Hobart in Australia, which has catalysed a massive increase of visitors to the city. With events such as MONA FOMA in summer and Dark MOFO in winter, the museum staggers visitor volumes to the small city to avoid placing considerable strain on the local environment and communities. Within the tourism sector, cultural tourism is also well-positioned to offer a tailored approach to tourism products, services and experiences. Such models have also supported the wider ecosystems around the iconic cultural landmarks, as part of “destination tourism” strategies.

Destination tourism encompasses festivals, live performance, film and festive celebrations as drawcards for international tourists and an economic driver of the local economy. Over the past three decades, the number of art biennials has proliferated. Today there are more than 300 biennials around the world , whose genesis can be based both on artistic ambitions and place-making strategies to revive specific destinations. As a result of COVID-19, many major biennials and arts festivals have been cancelled or postponed. Both the Venice Architecture and Art Biennales have been postponed to 2022 due to COVID-19. The Berlin International Film Festival will hold its 2021 edition online and in selected cinemas. Film-induced tourism - motivated by a combination of media expansion, entertainment industry growth and international travel - has also been used for strategic regional development, infrastructure development and job creation, as well to market destinations to tourists. China's highest-grossing film of 2012 “Lost in Thailand”, for example, resulted in a tourist boom to Chiang Mai in Thailand, with daily flights to 17 Chinese cities to accommodate the daily influx of thousands of tourists who came to visit the film’s location. Since March 2020, tourism-related industries in New York City in the United States have gone into freefall, with revenue from the performing arts alone plunging by almost 70%. As the city is reliant on its tourism sector, the collapse of tourism explains why New York’s economy has been harder hit than other major cities in the country. Meanwhile in South Africa, when the first ever digital iteration of the country’s annual National Arts Festival took place last June, it also meant an estimated US$25.7 million (R377 million) and US$6.4 million (R94 million) loss to the Eastern Cape province and city of Makhanda (based on 2018 figures), in addition to the US$1.4 million (R20 million) that reaches the pockets of the artists and supporting industries. The United Kingdom's largest music festival, Glastonbury, held annually in Somerset, recently cancelled for the second year running due to the pandemic, which will have ripple effects on local businesses and the charities that receive funding from ticket sales.

Similarly, cancellations of carnivals from Santa Cruz de Tenerife in the Canary Islands to Binche in Belgium has spurred massive losses for local tourism providers, hotels, restaurants, costume-makers and dance schools. In the case of the Rio de Janeiro Carnival in Brazil, for instance, the city has amassed significant losses for the unstaged event, which in 2019 attracted 1.5 million tourists from Brazil and abroad and generated revenues in the range of US$700 million (BRL 3.78 billion). The knock-on effect on the wider economy due to supply chains often points to an estimated total loss that is far greater than those experienced solely by the cultural tourism sector.

positive impacts of cultural tourism

Guggenheim Museum Bilbao, Spain by erlucho

Every year, roughly 600 million national and international religious and spiritual trips take place , generating US$18 billion in tourism revenue. Pilgrimages, a fundamental precursor to modern tourism, motivate tourists solely through religious practices. Religious tourism is particularly popular in France, India, Italy and Saudi Arabia. For instance, the Hindu pilgrimage and festival Kumbh Mela in India, inscribed in 2017 on the UNESCO Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity, attracts over 120 million pilgrims of all castes, creeds and genders. The festival is held in the cities of Allahabad, Haridwar, Ujjain and Nasik every four years by rotation. Sacred and ceremonial sites have unique significance for peoples and communities, and are often integral to journeys that promote spiritual well-being. Mongolia, for example, has around 800 sacred sites including 10 mountains protected by Presidential Decree, and lakes and ovoos, many of which have their own sutras. In the case of Mongolia, the environmental stewardship and rituals and practices connected with these sacred places also intersects with longstanding political traditions and State leadership.

Cities with a vibrant cultural scene and assets are not only more likely to attract tourists, but also the skilled talent who can advance the city’s long-term prospects. Several cities are also focusing on developing their night-time economies through the promotion of theatre, concerts, festivals, light shows and use of public spaces that increasingly making use of audio-visual technologies. Situated on Chile’s Pacific coast, the city of Valparaíso, a World Heritage site, is taking steps to transform the city’s night scene into a safe and inclusive tourist destination through revitalizing public spaces. While the economies of many cities have been weakened during the pandemic, the night-time economy of the city of Chengdu in China, a UNESCO Creative City for Gastronomy, has flourished and has made a significant contribution to generating revenue for the city, accounting for 45% of citizen’s daily expenditure.

The pandemic has generated the public’s re-appropriation of the urban space. People have sought open-air sites and experiences in nature. In many countries that are experiencing lockdowns, public spaces, including parks and city squares, have proven essential for socialization and strengthening resilience. People have also reconnected with the heritage assets in their urban environments. Local governments, organizations and civil society have introduced innovative ways to connect people and encourage creative expression. Cork City Council Arts Office and Creative Ireland, for example, jointly supported the art initiative Ardú- Irish for ‘Rise’ – involving seven renowned Irish street artists who produced art in the streets and alleyways of Cork.

positive impacts of cultural tourism

Chengdu Town Square, China by Lukas Bischoff

Environment-based solutions support integrated approaches to deliver across the urban-rural continuum, and enhance visitor experiences by drawing on the existing features of a city. In the city of Bamberg, a World Heritage site in Germany, gardens are a key asset of the city and contribute to its livability and the well-being of its local population and visitors. More than 12,000 tourists enjoy this tangible testimony to the local history and environment on an annual basis. Eighteen agricultural businesses produce local vegetables, herbs, flowers and shrubs, and farm the inner-city gardens and surrounding agricultural fields. The museum also organizes gastronomic events and cooking classes to promote local products and recipes.

In rural areas, crafts can support strategies for cultural and community-based tourism. This is particularly the case in Asia, where craft industries are often found in rural environments and can be an engine for generating employment and curbing rural-urban migration. Craft villages have been established in Viet Nam since the 11th century, constituting an integral part of the cultural resources of the country, and whose tourism profits are often re-invested into the sustainability of the villages. The craft tradition is not affected by heavy tourist seasons and tourists can visit all year round.

Indigenous tourism can help promote and maintain indigenous arts, handicrafts, and culture, including indigenous culture and traditions, which are often major attractions for visitors. Through tourism, indigenous values and food systems can also promote a less carbon-intensive industry. During COVID-19, the Government of Canada has given a series of grants to indigenous tourism businesses to help maintain livelihoods. UNESCO’s Intergovernmental Committee for the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions announced that it will grant, through the International Fund for Creative Diversity (IFCD), US$70,000 dollars to Mexican indigenous cultural enterprises, which will support indigenous enterprises through training programmes, seed funding, a pre-incubation process and the creation of an e-commerce website.

Tourism has boosted community pride in living heritage and the active involvement of local communities in its safeguarding. Local authorities, cultural associations, bearers and practitioners have made efforts to safeguard and promote elements as they have understood that not only can these elements strengthen their cultural identity but that they can also contribute to tourism and economic development. In recent years, there has been a growing interest in the role of intellectual property and in the regulation of heritage. In the field of gastronomy, a lot of work has been done in protecting local food products, including the development of labels and certification of origin. Member States are exploring the possibilities of geographical indication (GI) for cultural products as a way of reducing the risk of heritage exploitation in connection to, for example, crafts, textiles and food products, and favouring its sustainable development.

The pandemic has brought to the forefront the evolving role of museums and their crucial importance to the life of societies in terms of health and well-being, education and the economy. A 2019 report by the World Health Organization (WHO) examined 3,000 studies on the role of the arts in improving health and well-being, which indicated that the arts play a major role in preventing, managing and treating illness. Over the past decade the number of museums has increased by 60%, demonstrating the important role that museums have in national cultural policy. Museums are not static but are rather dynamic spaces of education and dialogue, with the potential to boost public awareness about the value of cultural and natural heritage, and the responsibility to contribute to its safeguarding.

Data presented in UNESCO's report "Museums Around the World in the Face of COVID-19" in May 2020 show that 90% of institutions were forced to close, whereas the situation in September-October 2020 was much more variable depending on their location in the world. Large museums have consistently been the most heavily impacted by the drop in international tourism – notably in Europe and North America. Larger museums, such as Amsterdam’s Rijksmuseum and Vienna’s Kunsthistorisches Museum have reported losses between €100,000 and €600,000 a week. Smaller museums have been relatively stable, as they are not as reliant on international tourism and have maintained a closer connection to local communities. In November, the Network of European Museum Organisations (NEMO) released the results of a survey of 6,000 museums from 48 countries. Of the responding museums, 93% have increased or started online services during the pandemic. Most larger museums (81%) have increased their digital capacities, while only 47% of smaller museums indicated that they did. An overwhelming majority of respondents (92.9%) confirm that the public is safe at their museum. As reported in the Tracker last October, the world’s most visited museum, the Louvre in France (9.3 million visitors annually) witnessed a ten-fold increase in traffic to its website. Yet while digital technologies have provided options for museums to remain operational, not all have the necessary infrastructure, which is the case for many museums in Africa and SIDS.

positive impacts of cultural tourism

New technologies have enabled several new innovations that can better support cultural tourism and digital technologies in visitor management, access and site interpretation. Cultural tourists visiting cultural heritage sites, for example, can enjoy educational tools that raise awareness of a site and its history. Determining carrying capacity through algorithms has helped monitor tourist numbers, such as in Hạ Long Bay in Viet Nam. In response to the pandemic, Singapore’s Asian Civilizations Museum is one of many museums that has harnessed digital technologies to provide virtual tours of its collections, thus allowing viewers to learn more about Asian cultures and histories. The pandemic has enhanced the need for technology solutions to better manage tourism flows at destinations and encourage tourism development in alternative areas.

Shaping a post-pandemic vision : regenerative and inclusive cultural tourism

As tourism is inherently dependent on the movement and interaction of people, it has been one of the hardest-hit sectors by the pandemic and may be one of the last to recover. Travel and international border restrictions have led to the massive decline in tourism in 2020, spurring many countries to implement strategies for domestic tourism to keep economies afloat. Many cultural institutions and built and natural heritage sites have established strict systems of physical distancing and hygiene measures, enabling them to open once regulations allow. Once travel restrictions have been lifted, it will enable the recovery of the tourism sector and for the wider economy and community at large.

While the pandemic has dramatically shifted the policy context for cultural tourism, it has also provided the opportunity to experiment with integrated models that can be taken forward in the post-pandemic context. While destinations are adopting a multiplicity of approaches to better position sustainability in their plans for tourism development, there is no one-size-fits-all solution.

A comprehensive, integrated approach to the cultural sector is needed to ensure more sustainable cultural tourism patterns. Efforts aimed at promoting cultural tourism destinations should build on the diversity of cultural sub-sectors, including cultural and heritage sites, museums, but also the creative economy and living heritage, notably local practices, food and crafts production. Beyond cultural landmarks, which act as a hotspot to drive the attractiveness of tourism destinations, and particularly cities, cultural tourism should also encompass other aspects of the cultural value chain as well as more local, community-based cultural expressions. Such an integrated approach is likely to support a more equitable distribution of cultural tourism revenues, also spreading tourism flows over larger areas, thus curbing the negative impacts of over-tourism on renowned cultural sites, including UNESCO World Heritage sites. This comprehensive vision also echoes the growing aspiration of visitors around the world for more inclusive and sustainable tourism practices, engaging with local communities and broadening the understanding of cultural diversity.

As a result of the crisis, the transversal component of cultural tourism has been brought to the fore, demonstrating its cross-cutting nature and alliance with other development areas. Cultural tourism – and tourism more broadly – is highly relevant to the 2030 for Sustainable Development and its 17 SDGs, however, the full potential of cultural tourism for advancing development – economic, social and environmental - remains untapped. This is even though cultural tourism is included in a third of all countries’ VNRs, thus demonstrating its priority for governments. Due the transversal nature of cultural tourism, there is scope to build on these synergies and strengthen cooperation between ministries to advance cooperation for a stronger and more resilient sector. This plays an integral role in ensuring a regenerative and inclusive cultural tourism sector. Similarly, tourism can feature as criteria for certain funding initiatives, or as a decisive component for financing cultural projects, such as in heritage or the cultural and creative industries.

positive impacts of cultural tourism

Houses in Amsterdam, adisa, Getty, Images Pro

Several countries have harnessed the crisis to step up actions towards more sustainable models of cultural tourism development by ensuring that recovery planning is aligned with key sustainability principles and the SDGs. Tourism both impacts and is impacted by climate change. There is scant evidence of integration of climate strategies in tourism policies, as well as countries’ efforts to develop solid crisis preparedness and response strategies for the tourism sector. The magnitude and regional variation of climate change in the coming decades will continue to affect cultural tourism, therefore, recovery planning should factor in climate change concerns. Accelerating climate action is of utmost importance for the resilience of the sector.

The key role of local actors in cultural tourism should be supported and developed. States have the opportunity to build on local knowledge, networks and models to forge a stronger and more sustainable cultural tourism sector. This includes streamlining cooperation between different levels of governance in the cultural tourism sector and in concert with civil society and private sector. Particularly during the pandemic, many cities and municipalities have not received adequate State support and have instead introduced measures and initiatives using local resources. In parallel, such actions can spur new opportunities for employment and training that respond to local needs.

Greater diversification in cultural tourism models is needed, backed by a stronger integration of the sector within broader economic and regional planning. An overdependence of the cultural sector on the tourism sector became clear for some countries when the pandemic hit, which saw their economies come to a staggering halt. This has been further weakened by pre-existing gaps in government and industry preparedness and response capacity. The cultural tourism sector is highly fragmented and interdependent, and relies heavily on micro and small enterprises. Developing a more in-depth understanding of tourism value chains can help identify pathways for incremental progress. Similarly, more integrated – and balanced – models can shape a more resilient sector that is less vulnerable to future crises. Several countries are benefiting from such approaches by factoring in a consideration of the environmental and socio-cultural pillars of sustainability, which is supported across all levels of government and in concert with all stakeholders.

positive impacts of cultural tourism

abhishek gaurav, Pexels

Inclusion must be at the heart of building back better the cultural tourism sector. Stakeholders at different levels should participate in planning and management, and local communities cannot be excluded from benefitting from the opportunities and economic benefits of cultural tourism. Moreover, they should be supported and empowered to create solutions from the outset, thus forging more sustainable and scalable options in the long-term. Policy-makers need to ensure that cultural tourism development is pursued within a wider context of city and regional strategies in close co-operation with local communities and industry. Businesses are instrumental in adopting eco-responsible practices for transport, accommodation and food. A balance between public/ private investment should also be planned to support an integrated approach post-crisis, which ensures input and support from industry and civil society.

The COVID-19 crisis has highlighted the essential role of museums as an integral component of societies in terms of well-being, health, education and the economy. Digitalization has been a game-changer for many cultural institutions to remain operational to the greatest extent possible. Yet there are significant disparities in terms of infrastructure and resources, which was underscored when the world shifted online. Museums in SIDS have faced particular difficulties with lack of access to digitalization. These imbalances should be considered in post-crisis strategies.

The pandemic presents an occasion to deeply rethink tourism for the future, and what constitutes the markers and benchmarks of “success”. High-quality cultural tourism is increasingly gaining traction in new strategies for recovery and revival, in view of contributing to the long-term health and resilience of the sector and local communities. Similarly, many countries are exploring ways to fast track towards greener, more sustainable tourism development. As such, the pandemic presents an opportunity for a paradigm shift - the transformation of the culture and tourism sectors to become more inclusive and sustainable. Moreover, this includes incorporating tourism approaches that not only avoid damage but have a positive impact on the environment of tourism destinations and local communities. This emphasis on regenerative tourism has a holistic approach that measures tourism beyond its financial return, and shifts the pendulum towards focusing on the concerns of local communities, and the wellbeing of people and planet.

positive impacts of cultural tourism

Entabeni Game Reserve in South Africa by SL_Photography

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UN Tourism | Bringing the world closer

Ethics, culture and social responsibility.

  • Global Code of Ethics for Tourism
  • Accessible Tourism

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  • Women’s Empowerment and Tourism

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The convergence between tourism and culture, and the increasing interest of visitors in cultural experiences, bring unique opportunities but also complex challenges for the tourism sector.

“Tourism policies and activities should be conducted with respect for the artistic, archaeological and cultural heritage, which they should protect and pass on to future generations; particular care should be devoted to preserving monuments, worship sites, archaeological and historic sites as well as upgrading museums which must be widely open and accessible to tourism visits”

UN Tourism Framework Convention on Tourism Ethics

Article 7, paragraph 2

This webpage provides UN Tourism resources aimed at strengthening the dialogue between tourism and culture and an informed decision-making in the sphere of cultural tourism. It also promotes the exchange of good practices showcasing inclusive management systems and innovative cultural tourism experiences .  

About Cultural Tourism

According to the definition adopted by the UN Tourism General Assembly, at its 22nd session (2017), Cultural Tourism implies “A type of tourism activity in which the visitor’s essential motivation is to learn, discover, experience and consume the tangible and intangible cultural attractions/products in a tourism destination. These attractions/products relate to a set of distinctive material, intellectual, spiritual and emotional features of a society that encompasses arts and architecture, historical and cultural heritage, culinary heritage, literature, music, creative industries and the living cultures with their lifestyles, value systems, beliefs and traditions”. UN Tourism provides support to its members in strengthening cultural tourism policy frameworks, strategies and product development . It also provides guidelines for the tourism sector in adopting policies and governance models that benefit all stakeholders, while promoting and preserving cultural elements.

Recommendations for Cultural Tourism Key Players on Accessibility 

UN Tourism , Fundación ONCE and UNE issued in September 2023, a set of guidelines targeting key players of the cultural tourism ecosystem, who wish to make their offerings more accessible.

The key partners in the drafting and expert review process were the ICOMOS International Cultural Tourism Committee and the European Network for Accessible Tourism (ENAT) . The ICOMOS experts’ input was key in covering crucial action areas where accessibility needs to be put in the spotlight, in order to make cultural experiences more inclusive for all people.

This guidance tool is also framed within the promotion of the ISO Standard ISO 21902 , in whose development UN Tourism had one of the leading roles.

Download here the English and Spanish version of the Recommendations.

Compendium of Good Practices in Indigenous Tourism

Compendium of Good Practices in Indigenous Tourismo

The report is primarily meant to showcase good practices championed by indigenous leaders and associations from the Region. However, it also includes a conceptual introduction to different aspects of planning, management and promotion of a responsible and sustainable indigenous tourism development.

The compendium also sets forward a series of recommendations targeting public administrations, as well as a list of tips promoting a responsible conduct of tourists who decide to visit indigenous communities.

For downloads, please visit the UN Tourism E-library page: Download in English - Download in Spanish .

Weaving the Recovery - Indigenous Women in Tourism

Weaving the recovery

This initiative, which gathers UN Tourism , t he World Indigenous Tourism Alliance (WINTA) , Centro de las Artes Indígenas (CAI) and the NGO IMPACTO , was selected as one of the ten most promising projects amoung 850+ initiatives to address the most pressing global challenges. The project will test different methodologies in pilot communities, starting with Mexico , to enable indigenous women access markets and demonstrate their leadership in the post-COVID recovery.

This empowerment model , based on promoting a responsible tourism development, cultural transmission and fair-trade principles, will represent a novel community approach with a high global replication potential.

Visit the Weaving the Recovery - Indigenous Women in Tourism project webpage.

Inclusive Recovery of Cultural Tourism

INCLUSIVE RECOVERY OF CULTURAL TOURISM

The release of the guidelines comes within the context of the International Year of Creative Economy for Sustainable Development 2021 , a UN initiative designed to recognize how culture and creativity, including cultural tourism, can contribute to advancing the SDGs.  

UN Tourism Inclusive Recovery Guide, Issue 4: Indigenous Communities

Indigenous Communities

Sustainable Development of Indigenous Tourism

The Recommendations on Sustainable Development of Indigenous Tourism provide guidance to tourism stakeholders to develop their operations in a responsible and sustainable manner within those indigenous communities that wish to:

  • Open up to tourism development, or
  • Improve the management of the existing tourism experiences within their communities.

They were prepared by the UN Tourism Ethics, Culture and Social Responsibility Department in close consultation with indigenous tourism associations, indigenous entrepreneurs and advocates. The Recommendations were endorsed by the World Committee on Tourism Ethics and finally adopted by the UN Tourism General Assembly in 2019, as a landmark document of the Organization in this sphere.

Who are these Recommendations targeting?

  • Tour operators and travel agencies
  • Tour guides
  • Indigenous communities
  • Other stakeholders such as governments, policy makers and destinations

The Recommendations address some of the key questions regarding indigenous tourism:

indigenous entrepreneurs and advocates

Download PDF:

  • Recommendations on Sustainable Development of Indigenous Tourism
  • Recomendaciones sobre el desarrollo sostenible del turismo indígena, ESP

UN Tourism/UNESCO World Conferences on Tourism and Culture

The UN Tourism/UNESCO World Conferences on Tourism and Culture bring together Ministers of Tourism and Ministers of Culture with the objective to identify key opportunities and challenges for a stronger cooperation between these highly interlinked fields. Gathering tourism and culture stakeholders from all world regions the conferences which have been hosted by Cambodia, Oman, Türkiye and Japan have addressed a wide range of topics, including governance models, the promotion, protection and safeguarding of culture, innovation, the role of creative industries and urban regeneration as a vehicle for sustainable development in destinations worldwide.

Fourth UN Tourism/UNESCO World Conference on Tourism and Culture: Investing in future generations. Kyoto, Japan. 12-13 December 2019 Kyoto Declaration on Tourism and Culture: Investing in future generations ( English, French, Spanish, Arabic, Russian and Japanese )

Third UN Tourism/UNESCO World Conference on Tourism and Culture : For the Benefit of All. Istanbul, Türkiye. 3 -5 December 2018 Istanbul Declaration on Tourism and Culture: For the Benefit of All ( English , French , Spanish , Arabic , Russian )

Second UN Tourism/UNESCO World Conference’s on Tourism and Culture: Fostering Sustainable Development. Muscat, Sultanate of Oman. 11-12 December 2017 Muscat Declaration on Tourism and Culture: Fostering Sustainable Development ( English , French , Spanish , Arabic , Russian )

First UN Tourism/UNESCO World Conference’s on Tourism and Culture: Building a new partnership. Siem Reap, Cambodia. 4-6 February 2015 Siem Reap Declaration on Tourism and Culture – Building a New Partnership Model ( English )

UN Tourism Study on Tourism and Intangible Cultural Heritage  

The first UN Tourism Study on Tourism and Intangible Cultural Heritage provides comprehensive baseline research on the interlinkages between tourism and the expressions and skills that make up humanity’s intangible cultural heritage (ICH). 

UNWTO Study on Tourism and Intangible Cultural Heritage

Through a compendium of case studies drawn from across five continents, the report offers in-depth information on, and analysis of, government-led actions, public-private partnerships and community initiatives.

These practical examples feature tourism development projects related to six pivotal areas of ICH: handicrafts and the visual arts; gastronomy; social practices, rituals and festive events; music and the performing arts; oral traditions and expressions; and, knowledge and practices concerning nature and the universe.

Highlighting innovative forms of policy-making, the UN Tourism Study on Tourism and Intangible Cultural Heritage recommends specific actions for stakeholders to foster the sustainable and responsible development of tourism by incorporating and safeguarding intangible cultural assets.

UN Tourism Study on Tourism and Intangible Cultural Heritage

  • UN Tourism Study
  • Summary of the Study

Studies and research on tourism and culture commissioned by UN Tourism

  • Tourism and Culture Synergies, 2018
  • UN Tourism Study on Tourism and Intangible Cultural Heritage, 2012
  • Big Data in Cultural Tourism – Building Sustainability and Enhancing Competitiveness (e-unwto.org)

Outcomes from the UN Tourism Affiliate Members World Expert Meeting on Cultural Tourism, Madrid, Spain, 1–2 December 2022

UN Tourism and the Region of Madrid – through the Regional Ministry of Culture, Tourism, and Sports – held the World Expert Meeting on Cultural Tourism in Madrid on 1 and 2 December 2022. The initiative reflects the alliance and common commitment of the two partners to further explore the bond between tourism and culture. This publication is the result of the collaboration and discussion between the experts at the meeting, and subsequent contributions.

Relevant Links

  • 3RD UN Tourism/UNESCO WORLD CONFERENCE ON TOURISM AND CULTURE ‘FOR THE BENEFIT OF ALL’

Photo credit of the Summary's cover page:  www.banglanatak.com

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Ccaccaccollo Women’s Weaving Cooperative community, Sacred Valley.

Community-based tourism: how your trip can make a positive impact on local people

Community-based tourism can reap great rewards. Done well, it enables local organisations to protect precious habitats, preserve unique culture and empower grassroots employees.

In the mid-1990s, the remote community of Klemtu in Canada’s British Columbia had to make a choice. Hit hard by the collapse of the fishing and forestry industries, unemployment was rocketing, and options were running out. But they knew there were two things in the Great Bear Rainforest that you couldn’t get anywhere else: their own Indigenous culture and the rare, ghostly-white Kermode bear, also known as the Spirit Bear. And that’s how Spirit Bear Lodge was born: a showcase of the Kitasoo/Xai’xais First Nation, and an entry point for exploring the extraordinary wilderness of the largest temperate rainforest on Earth, with the added benefit of spotting those elusive bears, along with wolves, whales and brown bears. Today, the lodge is a blueprint for conservation-based, community-based tourism, with a string of successes under its belt: the surrounding rainforest is now protected from logging, bear hunting has been banned and the community has a steady income. It has also, they say, fuelled a cultural renaissance. “The lodge has created opportunities for young and old to thrive in their homelands, while educating people from around the world with our rich culture,” explains Roxanne Robinson, guest services manager at the lodge. Guests learn about Kitasoo/Xai’xais culture from the lodge staff and their guides on wildlife expeditions, kayaking tours and cultural visits, while younger community members drop by as part of the Súa Educational Foundation programme. “Súa means ‘thunder’ in our language, and they come to share stories, songs and dances with guests in our traditional big house,” says Robinson. Guests not only have an incredible experience, but they can also sleep easy knowing that their tourist dollars are doing good. Doing good, if reports are anything to go by, is something we all want to do more of. According to an American Express poll last year, 72% of travellers want to help boost tourism revenue in local economies. And the latest sustainability report by Booking.com showed that 73% of travellers would like to have authentic experiences that are representative of the local culture; 84% believe that preservation of cultural heritage is crucial; and 76% want to be sure that their economic impact is spread equally throughout society. So, being a responsible traveller is no longer just about protecting the environment or reducing our carbon footprints. It’s about how our tourist dollars can do good in the places we visit. It’s about communities. It’s taking the ‘buy local’ mantra — supporting your neighbourhood bookshop instead of buying on Amazon, say, or eating in a local restaurant instead of McDonald’s — and using it on your travels. When travelling, though, buying locally can be more nuanced. It could mean eating out in a local restaurant — but who owns the restaurant? Are the staff local but the profits going abroad? Does the restaurant support local producers and farmers, or are the ingredients imported? Is the attached gift shop a showcase of Indigenous craftsmanship, or are the souvenirs all made in China?  

positive impacts of cultural tourism

It is, in other words, complicated. “Is it tourism that takes place in a community?” asks Dr Albert Kimbu, head of tourism and transport at the University of Surrey. “Or is it tourism that’s actively engaging and benefitting communities?” That’s the key. That’s the question we, as travellers, need to be asking. “My take on community-based tourism, or CBT,” explains Dr Kimbu, “is that it has to be by the community, for the community.” In other words, if a hotel or lodge takes guests to visit a local school, or to see a cultural dance in a local village, which might be taking place in the community — is the community genuinely benefitting? They might be getting paid, but it could also be straight-up cultural exploitation. Jamie Sweeting, CEO of Planeterra, the non-profit partner of G Adventures, which specialises in community tourism, agrees: “It needs to be owned, led and run by the communities themselves.” Why? “Because,” explains Dr Kimbu, “When communities become aware that what they have is a product that can be sold, then they have a stake in protecting it.” Take the Sabyinyo Silverback Lodge in Rwanda. The saleable product here is the mountain gorilla that inhabits Volcanoes National Park next door. Visitors will pay a high price to see them in the wild. Working with Sacola, a local non-profit, the idea of a lodge that’s 100%-owned and -run by the community was born, with all profits going back into social and economic projects, as well as conservation within the park. It’s worked a treat. Since opening in 2006, US$4m (£3m) has gone into community and conservation projects, while the gorilla population in the park now includes 10 different gorilla groups. So, the community recognised the financial benefits of their neighbouring gorillas and now benefit by protecting their environment. But CBT at its best goes way beyond employing locally. It means the community gets to decide how to protect the culture and environment on which it depends. So, the community benefits, the environment and local culture is safeguarded, and the resulting economic benefits stay within the community. Win-win-win. There are ripple effects, too. Spier, a wine estate in South Africa’s Stellenbosch region, has a Growing for Good programme, which includes mentoring and assisting local entrepreneurs to create businesses that can then be used by Spier. This has worked with a local laundry service, for example, as well as a taxi service used by its guests. And Fogo Island Inn in Newfoundland, Canada is all about the ripple effects, having been created entirely for the benefit of the local community. This 29-room luxury inn was built by local philanthropist Zita Cobb through her Shorefast Foundation, and 100% of operating surpluses are reinvested in the community — a community that was in dire straits just a decade ago, thanks to the collapse of the global cod market.  

Power in partnership

Sabyinyo, Spier and Fogo are examples of when it works. When it doesn’t work, community involvement is nothing short of exploitation. As Amanda Ho, the co-founder of Regenerative Travel, puts it: “In many cases, what we’ve seen is communities around the world angry that their health, wellbeing, and priorities are not being recognised or respected by tourism.” Jamie Sweeting tells me about a particular lodge in Botswana — he won’t name names — which was ‘talking the talk’ about working with the Indigenous San. “The website was shouting about empowering the local community,” he says. But when Planeterra did some digging, it found that while the San were used to put on cultural shows at the lodge, they were earning below the living wage and staying in poor accommodation with barely enough food. Planeterra worked with the local San people to promote and upskill the community-owned Dqae Qare San Lodge nearby, helping them gain direct access to the same markets the other lodge was benefitting from.  

“Community-based tourism can be especially beneficial in empowering women, who are often responsible for the homestay or dining components of a trip” Francisca Kellett

That lack of access to market — and the lack of the knowledge, skills and infrastructure needed to run a successful travel business — is key. As Justin Francis of Responsible Travel puts it: “Being able to access the distribution chains of the tourism industry — to get guests through the doors — is difficult without the partnership of an established tour operator.” When CBT first appeared around 20-25 years ago, he says, NGOs and donors would pitch up at communities, build beautiful ecolodges, but allow the communities very little say — and then fail to provide the training, infrastructure and business know-how to lead to any kind of success.  

Having a voice, Francis says, is key where elected community representatives participate in the decision making: “The driving force behind successful CBT projects is local people setting the terms. It’s about them making informed decisions around how tourism develops.” In the case of the Ccaccaccollo Women’s Weaving Cooperative in Peru’s Sacred Valley, it was three women that had that voice. “When they first came to us, only a handful could do traditional Inca weaving,” Sweeting says. Led by those women, Planeterra assisted with training, infrastructure and marketing, and the co-op has boomed, now owned and run by more than 65 individuals, with an attached homestay attracting overnight visitors. CBT can be especially beneficial in empowering women, who are often responsible for the homestay or dining components of a trip. Dreamcatchers, a tour operator in South Africa, recognised this over 30 years ago, and helped launch a range of CBT enterprises including ‘Kammama’, a selection of nationwide, women-run homestays and experiences, from cooking courses in Soweto to an overnight stay with a family in the Cape Winelands. In the case of Ccaccaccollo, the ripple effect has been a huge uptick in education in the community: all the women involved are now fully literate in Spanish, the first generation to achieve this locally, and most have children in tertiary education — another first. “And there has been an uplift in the pride in their culture. They’re embracing it. They can see that people from dozens of countries travel to visit them because they have something special to offer,” says Sweeting. That special offering is what’s in it for us. “For travellers, CBT offers a genuinely authentic experience and insight into local life,” says Zina Bencheikh, at Intrepid Travel. “Travellers are welcomed into a community and have the chance to immerse themselves.” Intrepid now aims to bring a degree of CBT into many of its sustainable, small-group adventure tours. “Our clients often talk about our CBT experiences as one of the unexpected highlights of their trip,” says Bencheikh. So how do we spot the good guys? How do we know whether a lodge or restaurant or experience that claims to benefit a community genuinely is?   “Ask questions,” says Dr Kimbu. “Have a discussion with those organising your trip.” Bencheikh agrees. “Do your research. Before you visit, ask questions about how the project is run and where the money goes from your visit.” Travelling with a trusted tour operator is also sensible, as is looking out for any certification programmes such as B Corp. Covid-19, of course, has had a dreadful impact on CBT. Planeterra recently launched the Global Community Tourism Network, providing online training, promotion and marketing, to help organisations prepare for when tourists come back. “Many communities don’t have internet or phone access,” explains Sweeting. “So, we also have 16 strategic partnerships, mostly local non-profits with their own network. Our reach is now more than 800 community tourism enterprises in 75 countries.” On the flipside, Covid-19 has also changed how we want to travel. “There’s been a definite shift, with more travellers wanting to find purpose in their trips,” says Sweeting. “We need to take advantage of that. When you’re able to experience something owned and run by a community, it’s much more rewarding, and a more equitable experience for the host and the guest.” As Dr Kimbu puts it, “CBT has a sense of fairness and justice.” It’s that sense of fairness and justice that’s been behind the success of Spirit Bear Lodge for more than 20 years and one that the community hopes will last for generations. “I do hope that my children and future children continue with Spirit Bear Lodge,” Robinson tells me. “Seeing the growth in this company has been amazing. It’s a great way to learn and grow and thrive in our homelands.” You can’t say fairer than that.  

Published in the   May 2022   issue of   National Geographic Traveller (UK)

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Positive and Negative Social-Cultural, Economic and Environmental Impacts of Tourism on Residents

  • Conference paper
  • First Online: 17 November 2020
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positive impacts of cultural tourism

  • Fernanda A. Ferreira   ORCID: orcid.org/0000-0002-1335-7821 7 ,
  • Conceição Castro   ORCID: orcid.org/0000-0002-1550-5867 8 &
  • Ana Sofia Gomes 9  

Part of the book series: Smart Innovation, Systems and Technologies ((SIST,volume 208))

Included in the following conference series:

  • International Conference on Tourism, Technology and Systems

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Tourism is a socio-cultural phenomenon that has intensified with technological development and with the advancement of communication and transport systems. However, the increase in the number of people moving around the world does not necessarily represent success or tourist access, but it can mostly serve more immediate marketing interests.

Since tourism is considered a phenomenon, the sociological interest to study it arises. Tourist practice is an educational process, a learning process, which is established through the relationship between visitors and residents and their cultural backgrounds. Several authors dedicate their studies to this field, and several are also those who try to understand the relations between tourists and the residents in the host region. The purpose of this work is to review the scientific literature that is focused on the sociology of tourism as a subject to study the economic, social, and environmental impacts of tourism on societies and residents and how residents perceived the benefits and costs of tourism developments in the local community. Review of literature suggests that interactions between visitors and the host community can lead to short and long term positive and negative social-cultural, economic and environmental impacts on destinations.

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Acknowledgments

Fernanda A. Ferreira acknowledges the financial support by Portuguese national funds through FCT - Fundação para a Ciência e Tecnologia, I.P., under the project UIDB/04752/2020.

Conceição Castro acknowledges the financial support by Portuguese national funds through FCT - Fundação para a Ciência e Tecnologia, I.P., under the project UIDB/05422/2020.

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Conceição Castro

Polytechnic Institute of Porto, School of Hospitality and Tourism, Rua D. Sancho I, 981, 4480-876, Vila do Conde, Portugal

Ana Sofia Gomes

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Álvaro Rocha

School of Hospitality and Tourism, Polytechnic of Porto, Vila do Conde, Portugal

Pedro Liberato

Universidad EIA, Envigado, Colombia

Alejandro Peña

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Ferreira, F.A., Castro, C., Gomes, A.S. (2021). Positive and Negative Social-Cultural, Economic and Environmental Impacts of Tourism on Residents. In: de Carvalho, J.V., Rocha, Á., Liberato, P., Peña, A. (eds) Advances in Tourism, Technology and Systems. ICOTTS 2020. Smart Innovation, Systems and Technologies, vol 208. Springer, Singapore. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-981-33-4256-9_26

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Positive Impacts of Tourism on the Environment

positive impacts of cultural tourism

If you asked random people from different countries whether tourism has negative or positive impacts on the environment, none of the answers would most likely prevail since their opinion will be based on their personal experience from travels. Tourism and environment have important, yet controversial relationship, that needs to be in a perfect balance to benefit each other.

Beautiful natural landscapes or unique flora and fauna are the main drivers of tourism into an area. But when too many tourists visit natural sites, environment and its inhabitants rather suffer from the negative impacts, which easily outweigh all the benefits due to exceeding the natural carrying capacity of a place .

On the other hand, when the number of visitors is balanced with respect for the natural environment, tourism has great potential in supporting or even starting out new conservation projects that protect unique areas and benefit local residents.

Sustainable tourism helps protect the environment

Many countries around the world depend on tourism as their main industry in providing jobs in rural areas and bringing in funds that would be otherwise out of their reach. Financial resources and employment are critical for local livelihoods and security. But as more and more countries focus on expanding their tourism sites, they often encounter problems with overconsumption of their finite natural resources, pollution, and degradation. This easily spirals into undesirable situations of negative impacts on the local environment and society.

Tourism as a fast-growing industry must follow the principles of sustainability in order to last long term while maintaining positive impacts for an area. In terms of environment, this means consumption of natural resources within acceptable limits, protecting biodiversity and making sure that essential ecological processes can take place, while providing a pleasant experience to visiting tourists [1] .

A part of striving towards sustainability is also raising awareness about the unique natural features of an area and educating visitors about their sustainable management. This helps them to understand the rules set in place and respect differences.

Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in relation to tourism

Tourism represents 10 percent of world GDP. The industry increasingly affects the environment, culture, and socio-economic development of a country. Due to such a great reach, it is a powerful tool in facilitating change.

According to the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), tourism contributes directly or indirectly to all the 17 goals of sustainable development (SDGs) that were defined together with additional 169 SDG targets to ensure safer future for life on Earth by 2030.

Since 2018, UNWTO operates even an online platform dedicated to achievement of SDGs through tourism. You can visit it here: https://tourism4sdgs.org/ . On the platform is detailed description of each sustainable development goal in relation to tourism. SDGs address areas ranging from the importance of biodiversity, protection of marine ecosystems to urgent call for sustainable production and consumption.

Following the guidelines, UNWTO has, for example, partnered with the United Nations Environment Programme and the Ellen MacArthur Foundation and launched a Global Tourism Plastics Initiative to mitigate the problem of plastic pollution in the industry.     

What are the positive impacts of tourism on the environment?

Sustainable tourism is the only way to go forward if the industry wants to grow. But throughout the last couple decades, tourism has been already growing and has introduced many new places to foreign visitors. In some regions, having the option of welcoming paying guests, tourism has brought many positive impacts on the environment. Let’s see their examples.     

#1 Awareness raising and first-hand experience

Beautiful landscapes, animals in their natural environment, exotic ecosystems attract visitors from around the world. They are the primary reason why people travel. To get rest from their daily blues and experience ultimate relaxation from the connection with natural world. Tourism is the best tool to raise awareness of environmental values.

You learn the best when you do get to experience something directly, when you see it, touch it, and when you witness what threatens to destroy it. Personal visit of natural areas introduces you to the values they have for life. It makes you care about them, since you get to enjoy their special feeling. And memories you will have will encourage you to be environmentally-conscious in travel and personal life.

In January 2021, alarming pictures of the most touristy beaches in Bali buried in plastic waste that washed up on the shore due to the monsoon weather, appeared on social media of travelers and in the news [2] . The images have drawn global attention and created a bad rep for single-use plastic items, making us (consumers) more aware of the true impact.

#2 Tourism for skills learning and education

This is a special side of tourism but plays also an important role in positive impacts of tourism on the environment. Visitors do not have to be drawn to places just for entertainment or relaxation, they may come with the primary mission of learning a new skill or gaining certain knowledge. Tourists come to see a special feature in an area and often pay for their stay, for food, or training, which is a nice way to support the work they came to admire. Additionally, they may also put the new knowledge to use for their own projects.   

One nice example of this form of tourism could be visiting a permaculture farm with the purpose to learn about the practices applied on the farm and exchange ideas on what might work at home. Another example, that could inspire many, is spending time on edible forest farms, learning about planting diversity of low maintenance plants on your piece of land. Or visiting villages excelling in agroforestry farming practices which have allowed them to harvest variety of products from their lands, while protecting sensitive mountainous environments, where intensive farming would not be an option.           

#3 Support of conservation and biodiversity protection activities

Africa is a prime example of a country where tourism has had a positive effect on wildlife protection. Wildlife tourism in Africa makes around 36 percent of the tourism industry, contributing over $29 billion to the continent’s economy and provides jobs to 3.6 million people [3] .

The opportunity of seeing wild animals in their natural environment is what Africa is the most known for. This form of tourism reduces poverty and helps to empower women directly by giving them jobs, but even indirectly by allocating funds to build infrastructure – schools, hospitals.

Africa, Asia, South America, and the South Pacific focus more and more on the value of their wild natural areas. With the growth of tourism appear even new national and wildlife parks that connect sustainable tourism with biodiversity preservation.

For example, iSimangaliso Wetland Park in South Africa offers amazing experience for tourists who can choose between diving, snorkeling, kayaking or horseback riding in a landscape of 25,000 years old coastal dunes and swamp forests, while protecting the area’s sensitive ecosystems and unique species. The coastline is Africa’s only remaining nesting place of Loggerhead and Leatherback turtles [4] .

#4 Protection of endangered species

Countries begin to realize that their rare and endemic species are their symbol in the eyes of foreign visitors who are often attracted to the place because of them. Wild animals, virgin forests and a colorful palette of exotic plants are becoming an unusual sight in an economically developed world. The remaining spots that are still a home to this disappearing world are often turn to nature reserves and protected areas. This ensures better safety for endangered species that inhabit them.

Virunga National Park in East Africa has a story of conservation success to tell, even despite years of civil unrest and war in the surrounding areas, it has been declared an ecological pillar for the entire East and Central African biodiversity, having the largest concentration of birds and reptiles over other protected areas [5] .

Thanks to the initiative of the World Wildlife Fund and United Nations, the park has endured hard years and granted protection to endangered mountain gorillas, who were almost driven to extinction by human encroachment into their already limited habitat. Thanks to these extraordinary efforts and persistence, gorillas from the Virunga recovered and their number rose from 480 to over 600 [6] . The park is one of the most attractive tourist destinations, where you can see gorillas, chimpanzees, and many other iconic animals.

#5 Prevention of illegal trade and exploitation

Tourism brings new opportunities even to most remote places. The growing interest of tourists in visiting places where people live in connection with nature and animals gives chance to locals to sustain their families far from urban areas. In many cases, local communities quickly realize the need to protect what they have in order to attract tourists, as the stream of income from tourism is long-term and more advantageous than one-time sales of finite resources or poached animals.

A glimmer of hope sparked by the vision of attracting tourists takes place in two villages in Nepal that are known for being a transit points for illegal trade in pangolin meat and scales to Tibet and India.

The villages have joined a community-based pangolin conservation and education project . The goal of the project is to discourage local poachers from selling scales of pangolins to illegal traders, and thus interrupt the illegal trade pathway while protecting endangered pangolins . Participants of the project are also trained to help with long-term monitoring of pangolin population (species ecology, identification of threats and distribution).        

#6 Finance and job opportunities

One in ten jobs worldwide are directly or indirectly in the tourism industry. Tourism creates decent work opportunities and economic growth even in rural or remote areas. Tourism employs women and is often the first job experience of young people. Money from the tourism then often goes into improving local infrastructure, and sustainable management and protection of natural wonders that attract visitors.

Better infrastructure and services have a positive impact on the environment. They revolve around consumption of resources and their management. Modern infrastructure for wastewater cleaning saves water and promotes more efficient use of it. Waste management facilities focus on recycling materials rather than just dumping waste into sea or to landfills.

Tourism also directly helps to fund conservation activities of national parks, or other nature and wildlife preservation projects. Visitors are usually asked to pay entrance fees or a small tax that is meant to support the project.  

Costa Rica has one of the most successful rainforest conservation strategies, which enables the country to protect and care for its incredibly biodiversity rich rainforests, while at the same time generating income from tourism. A part of this income goes back to the rainforest conservation maintenance, research, and professional training of park guards. The rest sustains regional economy and creates balanced life opportunities for locals.       

#7 Adoption of sustainable practices and new legislation

We have partially tapped into this aspect already in the previous point. It is closely linked. More funds available to a region mean better possibilities to improve infrastructure and services. Modernization of infrastructure goes hand in hand with a transition to sustainable technologies and seeking of long-term solutions that will benefit people and the local environment.

Many travelers care about their impact on the environment. They are willing to pay for environmentally friendly services and accommodation when visiting a new place. Many destinations already follow the suit and are changing their approach to tourism by considering their environmental impact in their management.

Additionally, governments also respond to this pressure and often enforce regulations to further protect local natural resources by adopting sustainable practices in the industry.

You can see this trend in increasing numbers of eco-tourism lodges around the world; or recycling bins placed in public areas to collect different materials for more efficient waste management; in water saving measures and recommendations adopted by accommodation providers; or even large-scale renewable energy projects that power whole regions.

Several studies highlighted the benefits of renewable energy for maintaining healthy environment during the seasonal influx of tourists to island destinations. For example, a study of Mediterranean islands sees renewable energy projects as a tool to provide sufficient energy to residents and tourists during the periods of increased demand, while protecting already fragile and limited resources islands have.

Tourism and the environment could go well together

The success of tourism relies on good infrastructure and decent quality of services. The industry therefore helps the community development and brings new sources of inspiration and motivation for protection of biodiversity rich natural areas, wildlife, or whole ecosystems.

Many new conservation projects raise hope of local people in being able to sustain their families, while taking care of their home, of their legacy, of a place shaped by the nurturing hands of their ancestors. They hope that their effort will be appreciated and rewarded by respectful visitors.

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Positive and Negative Impacts of Tourism on Culture: A Critical Review of Examples from the Contemporary Literature

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greg richards

"Cultural tourism is one of the largest and fastest-growing global tourism markets. Culture and creative industries are increasingly being used to promote destinations and enhance their competitiveness and attractiveness. Many locations are now actively developing their tangible and intangible cultural assets as a means of developing comparative advantages in an increasingly competitive tourism marketplace, and to create local distinctiveness in the face of globalisation. The Impact of Culture on Tourism examines the growing relationship between tourism and culture, and the way in which they have together become major drivers of destination attractiveness and competitiveness. Based on recent case studies that illustrate the different facets of the relationship between tourism, culture and regional attractiveness, and the policy interventions which can be taken to enhance the relationship, this publication shows how a strong link between tourism and culture can be fostered to help places become more attractive to tourists, as well as increasing their competitiveness as locations to live, visit, work and invest in. The book is essential reading for academics, national and local policy makers and practitioners and all those in the tourism sector who wish to understand the relationship between culture, tourism and destination attractiveness."

positive impacts of cultural tourism

Tourism Review

Purpose To review the development of the relationship between culture and tourism over the past 75 years, and to outline some future developments over the coming 75 years. Design/methodology/approach A review of previous major work on cultural tourism. Findings Tourism and culture have been drawn inexorably closer over the years as culture has become one of the major content providers for tourism experiences, and tourism has become one of the most important income streams for cultural institutions. In the future this is likely to change, as cultural institutions find it increasingly difficult to maintain their authority as the dominant producers of local, regional and national culture, and as tourism becomes increasingly integrated into the everyday culture of the destination. Practical implications Cultural institutions will need to change their relationship with tourism as flows of tourists become more prevalent and fragmented. Social Implications The authority of high cultural institutions will be eroded as tourists increasingly seek authenticity in the culture of everyday life and the 'local'. Originality/value A first attempt to sketch the long term future of cultural tourism.

Ksenija Vodeb

In modern tourism the concept of big and mass tourism has been abandoned and support given to responsible development based on selected programmes and types of tourism, which leads to a new differentiation and quality in the increasingly demanding tourist market. The existing mass and uniform types of tourism are being refined by new and higher quality contents. In that context, culture has a direct impact on tourism and tourism increasingly affects culture, which has become an important motive for tourist travel. While some thirty years ago cultural tourism implied heritage tourism, i.e. visits to cultural and historical monuments, museums and galleries, some ten years ago that phenomenon underwent its transformation, so that today the same term also includes various social, cultural and entertainment events. The aim of this chapter is to provide a broader introduction into the highly diverse and complex topic of cultural tourism and highlight some of its most distinguished feature...

Trends and Issues in Global Tourism

Albrecht Steinecke

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This paper is based on the Tourism Industry. The Tourism industry is among the fastest growing economic activities in the world pumping in vast chunks of revenue. It has created job opportunities in both large and small cultural communities around the globe. As this continues to happen, the impacts tourism has brought in continues to be less understood (Lis, S. (2009). The effects the industry has brought to the nations involved range from economics to socio-cultural benefits and sometimes adverse outcomes to a large extent. The results are felt mainly in the developing countries where mass tourism is practiced. These negative effects are occasionally sustainable and manageable if well handled. This paper seeks to unveil the negative impacts the socio-cultural effects tourism has brought and identifying the areas of sustainability. Most of the players in the industry view tourism concerning its economic impacts, revenue and taxes collection to be the central driving bearing (Mason 2015). However, there is a broad range of sometimes severe negative impacts tourism has fueled depending on the kind of resources and conditions involved. The socio-cultural consequences of travel to the community have many times threatened to harm the tourism market. When tourism comes to a community, there will always be a gloomy effect on the neighborhood. With the relaxed and free state of the tourists at the destination, a batch of illegal activities manages to lean on and cause problems to people involved. The nature of changes in lifestyle in the local community due to tourist involvement and congestion has been seen to alter most socio-cultural patterns of the locals. Recreational areas such as hotels, clubs, entertainment concerts and beaches have pushed development into the community and forcing alterations in the physical construction of the area.

Dobrica Jovicic

Nikki Ramirez

'The tourism industry is one of the fastest growing industries in the world. It is an industry that facilitates not just the movement of people going from one country to another but the accompanying mass displacement of communities, its impact on traditional communities and the involvement of large business corporations in the process.. (Mowforth and Munt 1998:17). Discuss and give suggestions on how the negative socio-cultural impacts of tourism can be managed with reference to relevant examples'

Tracey White

There exists a growing body of literature on economic and environmental impacts in developing countries, yet in the area of the effects of tourism on society and culture, the literature is till limited. Furthermore, the little research which has been undertaken which focuses upon developing countries, often assumes a Western perspective. Therefore the purpose of this study was to examine the socio-cultural impacts of tourism in a destination context and from a host perspective. The study touches on areas of employment, gender and development issues, host / guest relationships, tourism as a form of progression, moral issues and economic factors. Interviews revealed that residents who were dependent upon tourism could differentiate between economic benefits and social costs, which were often interactional, and that awareness of negative consequences does not lead to opposition towards further tourism development. More importantly, local residents demonstrated feelings of pride and hap...

Patrick Kwoba

Host community’s attitudes and perceptions towards cultural tourism development have the potential to determine the sustainability of tourism in a region. Attitudes and perceptions are critical because they form a basis for the acceptance or rejection of development endeavours. The study sought to determine whether socio-demographic characteristics like length of residency and age of respondents affect the attitudes and perceptions of local residents towards cultural tourism development among the Kogelo community. The researcher also sought to establish whether dependency on tourism income and proximity to tourist attractions affect the attitudes of local residents towards cultural tourism development in the study area. The study was conducted between July and September 2011, and targeted local people and other stakeholders. The study utilised the explanatory research design. The target population constituted the local community, government employees and respondents drawn from other organisations involved in tourism development. A total of 137 local community respondents were selected using simple random sampling while 28 key informants were purposefully chosen for interview and focus group discussions. Data was collected using semi-structured questionnaires, semi-structured interviews, focus group discussions and participant observation. Multiple regression was used to analyse the quantitative data, whereas discourse analysis was performed on qualitative data. Findings showed that the hypothesis that length of residency does not have a positive effect on the attitudes of the local residents towards cultural tourism development among the Kogelo community was accepted (F = 0.535) Further, the hypothesis that age does not have a positive effect on the attitudes of the local people towards cultural tourism development among the Kogelo community was accepted (F = 0.156). The hypothesis that dependency on tourism income does not have a positive effect on the attitudes of local residents towards cultural tourism development in Kogelo area was rejected because it had an F value of 3.403. Lastly, the hypothesis that proximity to tourist attractions does not have a positive effect on the attitudes of local residents towards cultural tourism development among Kogelo community was rejected because it had an F value of 3.264. Evidently, there exists a mutual relationship between the host community’s attitudes and cultural tourism development. It is recommended that proper marketing be done to promote Kogelo as a tourism destination.

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Tourism Beast

Social and Cultural Impact of Tourism

Social and Cultural Impact of Tourism: Tourism industry in the 21 st  century is witnessing unprecedented growth and it catalyses social progress and cultural revival while acting as an engine for income and employment generation.  

Tourism is bringing great benefits to destinations world over and has become an instrument for poverty alleviation and sustainable development. Propoor tourism, volunteerism, indigenous tourism and several other neo-age forms have indeed revolutionized the socio-cultural undercurrents pertaining to the all-round development of tourism destinations. Impact of Tourism

Know more about Tourism Status Worldwide

Let us consider how tourism paves way for social harmony and cultural revitalization.

Basically there are four types of impact of tourism .

positive impacts of cultural tourism

Social Impact of Tourism. 

The power of tourism in breathing new life into dying cultural expression has been widely recognized. Moreover, tourism has the capacity to nourish the social values and other dimensions through greater appreciation and sharing.

Social impact

i)                    Positive Impacts.

A.       all inclusive characteristics. .

Tourism is no more the privilege of a chosen few who prefers just the luxurious components of the industry. The tourist market globally configures very diverse segments encompassing geographical background, demographics categories, and the like.

It is not only the exclusive women group travelers who have become globetrotters and ventures to visit the exotic havens of the world; solo woman travelers are also going places in the current era.    

Social tourism is yet another form of tourism that brings people with limited means to the mainstream pradding them to visit and enjoy tourism destinations. M. Hunziker at the Second Congress of Social Tourism held at Vienna and Salzburg in 1959 proposed the following definition:

“Social tourism is a type of tourism practiced by low income groups, and which is rendered possible and facilitated by entirely separate and therefore easily recognizable services. This form of tourism helps people with limited budget travel with assistance from NGO’s incentives and schemes under budget travel extended by the public system of tourism, and discounts offered by the private sector agencies.

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b.       Social Stability and Peace. 

Tourism provides sufficient impetus for people-to-people interaction, which is part and parcel of the Track-II Diplomacy.  This diplomacy constitutes cultural relations not at the government level, but at the level of the common citizens of countries.

Tourism fosters social stability by instilling noble ideas and free thoughts thorough healthy interactions and various other transactions between the hosts and the guests wherein both are benefited.  It broadens the mind of people and as a result, there is increased acceptance, mutual trust, and more tolerance.  These factors contribute profusely towards strengthening social stability and world peace.

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c.        Appreciation of Social Norms, Values, and Practices

Sociologists categorically printout that as tourists visit several nations and regions and get back to their respective countries their vibes in appreciating own countries and regions become very profound.

It is indicated that tourists tend to see their countries in a newer light and value tremendously the intricate aspects of their social customs and practices. Another dimension here is that when tourists see better practices in the areas they visit, there is dire enthusiasm built up in them to introduce implement it in their own places.

d.       The Educative Value and Social Upliftment.

Tourism is in a way education without classrooms. The interpersonal learning developed during interactions between the tourists and the host community is certainly an enriching experience for both the parties. 

       The new vision acquired as a result of different engagements with tourism – as tourist, local community, employer or employee will definitely have positive reflections on the society as well.  There will be more refinement in the social processes and lifestyle practices.

Outdated and irrational traditionally acquired tendencies are replaced with progressive ideals and activities. Also, the real sense of modernity is captured and nurtured through tourism which is deemed to have made the world a ‘global village’. When the niceties are imbibed by societies and hazardous practices are disowned and discarded, it will culminate in social upliftment.

e.        Contribution to Social Capital. 

Tourism ushers social progress in manifold ways. In addition to the advancements made in the sphere of infrastructure and superstructure, destinations experience immense growth as regards educational institutions, health centers, pollution control systems, intensive security, cultural institutions, etc.

Social welfare measures receive excellent impetus as a result of tourism making a mark in the destination. Enhanced livelihood sustenance programmes have gained grounds in many a tourist centre as an offshoot of such measures. Artisans are trained to improve the quality of their works. Impact of Tourism

Social enterprises including rehabilitation centres, de-addiction centres, product innovation & development institutions, and local empowerment agencies are having a productive time due to the regular influx of tourists and the genuine interest taken by voluntary tourists and other stakeholders. The local handicrafts and emporiums get ample thrust with respect to the marketing support from tourism promoters both in the private and public sectors.

ii) Negative Impacts .

A.       degeneration of tourism centres. .

Tourism is an avenue misused and exploited by antisocial elements. Tourists are unfortunately being targeted by those elements and they become easy victims of crime.  It is the responsibility of the local communities to properly guide the tourists in such a way so as to avoid dangerous places and areas.

Owing to the prostitution, child abuse, drug trafficking, robbery and sexual assault on tourists, the image of many destinations have been eroded. The brand takes a beating when there is degeneration of destinations because of the crimes committed there.

b.       Resentment and Hospitality of the Host Population.

Resentment of tourists by the host population as described by Doxey’s Irridex (Irritation Index) is found in some destinations. There are several reasons attributed to the host quest conflicts. One main reason is the sharing of local facilities and resources.

When tourists start using the same resources which the host population feels that are meant for them the spurt in conflict arise. This gets even more serious in the case of resources’ crunch. The local communities attribute the problem to the tourists. 

c.        Demonstration Effect.

This is a very serious effect as the consequences could be far-reaching. When certain members of the host community get enchanted by the lifestyle of the tourists and start aping/ imitating them at the cost of their own social mores and cultural dispositions, the local culture and values suffer.

There is some kind of erosion of values as the host community members, particularly the youngsters discard their social standing and etiquettes and start following the tourists’ activities. The foundation of the society itself is shaken. Now a day’s hosts start following the dressing pattern and fashion of tourists in many destinations.

d.       Human Rights Abuse.

Exploitation of the local community by tourists is increasing day by day. As criminals and other miscreants enter, the tourism destinations in the garb of tourists, the crimes committed goes overboard. They start exploiting the host community by cheaper means.   Sexual abuse, narcoticism, smuggling, poaching, etc., are rampant in many wildlife tourism destinations and hill stations. Such nefarious elements throw the rules and regulations in the wind and act according to their whims and fancies.

Another side of the problem is the displacement of the local population when their lands are taken over the tourism development. They are evicted from their lands without proper rehabilitation measures being initiated. In the name of life seeing tourism , which brings tourists face to face with the host society too, several exploitative practices are in vogue.

e.        Antagonism of Hosts.   

When there is unwanted noise, congestion, drunkenness, voyeurism, gambling, rowdiness and other excesses occurring in tourism centres, it results in antagonism by the hosts.

Fig. 1 Doxey’s Irridex – 4 Stages

Antagonism in this sense means an expression of open enmity towards the tourists by the hosts.

e.        Issues Linked to Standard of Living. 

Excessive tourism development can bring about undesirable social effects and at the same time, there is quick money for some quarters, which increase their standard of living. If there is no equity in terms of affluence due to tourism , there are chances for the occurrence of internal strife within the host community.

f.         Employment Issues.

Tourism projects are flourishing expansively. The sanction of tourism projects comes with a tag of ensuring jobs for the host population. When the vacancies are filled by job seekers from other regions or when the expertise is being imported from distant places, the local community starts objecting to the proceedings of the tourism enterprises.

g.       Identity Crisis.

When more and more tourists visit a destination, the inherent social fabric of the community gets affected and eventually loses its identity too.

Cultural Impact of Tourism.

The lifestyle changes at the places of tourist importance are quite encouraging. At the same time, planners have to mitigate the consequences of demonstration effect.

Cultural Impact

i)  Positive Impact of Tourism.

A.  revitalization of cultural symbols..

One of the main purpose of tourism is to foster understanding and appreciation of other cultures, peoples, and places. Another worthy aim of tourism is to exchange knowledge and ideas.   Through cultural tourism the experiential dynamics of the visitors is elevated without the cultural elements, every destination is just a place and in no way can stimulate the tourists. In that sense, culture becomes the main attraction of tourism.  

Development of cultural factors within a destination is a primary means of enhancing the products to attract tourists.  It also creates a favorable image of the tourism centre among tourists, both foreign and domestic. The cultural channels help in the presentation of the destination.

Fig.2. Major Cultural Symbols Promoted as part of Tourism

It is a fact that due to tourism scores of art and cultural forms are being preserved across the globe. Many a dying cultural form is being revived to be showcased for tourists.   If not for tourism , several cultural expressions would have vanished forever. Tourism also creates avenues for the artists and artisans to stage/depict their creative performances.

b.       Cultural Relations and International Co-Operation. 

Tourism plays a signature role in promoting cultural relations and forging international co-operation. Cultural organisations across the world are making their presence felt owing to the impetus provided by tourism. In the present day, tourism is instrumental in the inception of several cultural institutions. Plenty of cultural exchange programmes are being organised at the global level, thanks to tourism . This point out that tourism is intertwined with the cultural relations policies of many nations.

c.        Promotion of Cultural Values. 

When tourism supports cultural values, attitude, and behavior of the host communities in various destinations, one can observe that there is finest hospitality and service excellence.   The host communities take pride in their cultural traditions. Tourism serves as a driving force to restore cultural vibrancy and attributes of the local population.  On a similar vein, visitors also enriched after experiencing the cultural heritage and value systems in the destinations.

d.       Economic Value of Cultural Sites. 

Any cultural auditing will unveil the economic advantages of protecting and maintaining a cultural site. For example, there are lots of caves which are astounding tourism attractions. If it would have been left uncared for destruction, the revenue sources are being blocked.  Similar is the case with most of the cultural manifestations. To point out yet another economic merit of cultural events, to attract tourists, the world over, different unique cultural programmes are offered as per a stipulated calendar during which tourists are drawn in hordes. 

e.        Cultural Tourism and Income Generation.

Tourism contributes to the welfare of the local community in manifold ways.  When fairs and festivals are rejuvenated to amuse the tourists, the host population is able to be performers or spectators of the events. Tourism also acts as an incentive to curb migration. The cultural programmes and revived monuments increase the inflow of tourists due to which plenty of business opportunities shall arise in the tourist places. This will improve their job and earning prospects. Apart of income generation, another benefit linked to cultural tourism is the raise in covertness of the significance of cultural artifacts and activities.  

By organizing special interest tours to ruins, caves and other historical sites including the tombs of well-known personalities such as martyrs, litterateurs, etc. The host community can earn a good income. The members of the local population can also act as guides and facilitators. Selling antiques and souvenir articles to tourists is another source of income.

ii) Negative Impact of Tourism:

A.         commoditisation of culture. .

Cultural artifacts and events woo the tourists and they take great interest in enjoying them. Sometimes, the destination promoters are neglecting the richness of the cultural masterpieces and treating them as mere products or resources to invigorate the tourists. This happens even with deep-rooted traditional art forms. For the sake of formulating the art forms and artefacts as products to amuse the tourists, a lot of compromises are taking place.

b.         Loss of Authenticity.

This is another related negative impact. In the name of entertainment of tourists, a lot of maneuvering and orchestration are dome with various cultural forms. There are tampering and mutilations happening with respect to indigenous cultural expressions of profound importance. In the process, the authenticity is being lost. Fake products are crafted and packages as genuine cultural artefacts. The tourists in a way are cheated and such tendencies from the destination promotes can eventually rebound wherein through negative word of mouth publicity the destination image will suffer. Staged authenticity or stage-managing the art forms for tourist’s enjoyment does not necessarily bring the desired results.

c.          Disrespect of Local Customs.

Tourists are expected to respect local customs, codes, manners, and observances. When they violate the beliefs and values due to attitudinal problems or sheer carelessness, it leads to conflicts. The irresponsible conduct of tourists at the destination by engaging in littering, drug trafficking, irritable behavior, hooliganism, animosity towards hosts, etc. can hamper the relationship between the hosts and the guests. The moral and standard set at the destination should be regarded highly. Impact of Tourism

d.         Museumisation of Culture.

As part of ethnic tourism, which promotes intimate contact the indigenous community, nowadays special tours are being arranged to their habitats. This is a tight rope walk as the tours can be construed as an intrusion into the privacy of the native habitats. The live cultural aspects of tourists, for example, husking, weaving, fishing using traditional methods, etc. are appropriate to be showcased for tourism though the exactitude of the programmes needs to be ascertained meticulously.

e.          Fashion and Obscene Conduct.

Tourism centres will have many traditional concepts as regards the dress codes for the people both visitors and the locals. In the name of fashion and modernity, tourists are sometimes found to overlook the etiquettes followed in the destination. Their fashion could be obscene conduct for the host community.

f.           Food Observances.

Tourists cannot always expect the food items they have in their own native or other centres at the destination. Some cuisine may be taboo and tourists leaking them out of excitement can offend the native populace.

g.         Child Labour and Child Sex Tourism.

This is a cultural hazard due to fast-paced tourism growth. One can find an army of children doing menial jobs in restaurant, hotels, wayside amenities, and other outlets. Sexual exploitation of children who perform art forms for entertaining the tourists is also on the rise.

   The Socio-Cultural Considerations in Tourism Planning.

The planners must necessarily take into account the following socio-cultural perspectives while planning tourism ventures.

a.       Standardization of Tourism Projects.

The license to operate tourism projects may be awarded only after the confirmation of the factors listed below:

i)                   The signing of agreements to recruit a good percentage of local community members.

ii)                 The project shall abide by local cultural norms and practices and is not violating them by any means.

iii)               No child labour in the establishment.

iv)               Will take adequate measures, to curb prostitution, drug menace, gambling, smuggling, drunkenness, betting, and any other illegal activities.

v)                  Shall strictly sell authentic products.

b.       Planned and Controlled Tourism Development. 

Unplanned and uncontrolled tourism development is resulting in the deterioration of the socio-cultural strands of the destinations. For example, the construction of buildings for resorts and hotels flouting the local traditional architectural norms, using the raw materials and architectural style not in sync with the backdrop of the place causes visual pollution. Tourism planners must consult the local community members for any initiative and make them part of the decision-making process. This will enhance their pride and instill confidence in the cultural traditions. The bearing of demonstration effects can be offset by such efforts.

c.        Preservation of Cultural Sites.

Vandalism, graffiti writing, and destruction are depreciating the priceless cultural heritage of humanity. These losses are irreparable and irreversible. The future of tourism is heavily dependent on applying brakes to the bulldozer-laden culture, which is negating the invaluable cultural monuments and historical attractions. Even leads for enacting laws and strengthening existing acts like the ancient monuments and archaeological remains act could be given sufficient impetus. Impact of Tourism

d.       Diversification of Tourism Products for Budget and Accessible Tourists.

The creation of new tourism products to suit the requirements of budget and accessible tourists will certainly be a welcome move. The inception of barrier-free tourism infrastructure offers fillip to the social sensitivities of any destination. For example, disabled tourists would not be able to enjoy the vantage points of a hill station without the usage of a cable car.

e.        Synergy between Tourism Stakeholders and Cultural Institutions.

More efforts to foster the effective coordination between tourism stakeholders in private and public sector, and prominent cultural institutions can go a long way in intensifying tourism promotion. Tourists will get chances interact with the exponents of famous art forms such as Mohiniyattom, Kathakali, and Ottan Thullal. Tourism officials can take a lead role in organizing training workshops and symposiums for rural artisans, craftsmen, weavers, painters, and performing artists.

f.         Tourism Amenities.

It is almost necessary that tourism destination appoints guides, lifeguards and tourism police. Authorized guides trained to disseminate authentic information on the historic centres and heritage attractions can enhance the appeal of the facets of culture in the place. The presence of tourism police can control the damages caused by reckless miscreants to the monuments. 

g.       Marketing Support of Souvenir Articles.

Tourists are always on the lookout for the memorabilia they can take home which stall trigger the memories of their visitations to tourist places. Brass ware, metal wares, mirror works, apparels, leather products handmade paper products, etc. are sought after souvenir articles. Traditional workers make these articles indigenously. If the promoters can chip in with the marketing expertise, the demand for the mind-blowing souvenir artefacts would spruce-up. Impact of Tourism

h.       Integration of Policy and Planning.

The socio – cultural dimensions of tourism can be nurtured and productively nourished by the proper and systematic integration of policy and planning in a time bound fashion. The enamoring aspects of both society and culture can be the best showcased when packaged as tourist attractions. The action plan for cultural tourism development must take these into account. Similar is the case with social welfare and upliftment.

The allocation of fiscal grants and aids to artists and artisans is central to the revival and continuance of many a traditional art forms and handicrafts. The source identification and streamlining of the tracks and mechanics involved in the distribution of funds are to be jointly discussed between tourism and cultural stakeholders. Impact of Tourism

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Perceived positive impacts of tourism on culture and heritage New Zealand 2023

Perceived positive impacts of tourism on culture, values, and heritage in new zealand as at may 2023.

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New Zealand

April 28, 2023 to May 18, 2023

1,431 respondents

18-74 years

weighted by gender, age, and region to be representative of the New Zealand population based on 2018 population estimates

Online survey

Minimum quotas were set to ensure sufficient representation from traditional tourism hotspots. Participants were asked about their perception of the impacts of tourism on culture, values, and heritage using a five point scale where 1 = strongly disagree and 5 = strongly agree. Only responses indicating strong disagreement (1) and disagreement (2) are represented in this dataset.

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  20. Social and Cultural Impact of Tourism

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