Introducing: Cultural Tourism. Part I
One of the most important concepts for nowadays tourism industry is cultural tourism. This kind of tourism allows communities, cities, and any kind of destination to attract tourism in an educational way.
The definition of ICOMOS (International Council on Monuments and Sites) in the Chapter of Cultural Tourism proposed at the International Seminar on Contemporary Tourism and Humanism in Belgium in 1976 states that: Cultural tourism is that form of tourism that aims, among other purposes, at the knowledge of monuments and historical-artistic sites. It exerts a really positive effect on them as long as it contributes -for its own purposes- to its maintenance and protection.
Toselli (2003) claims that this form of tourism justifies, in fact, the efforts that such maintenance and protection demand of the human community, due to the socio-cultural and economic benefits that it entails for all the population involved. Therefore another kind of tourism branches have expanded under this same idea known as ecotourism, responsible tourism, and sustainable tourism (so much to talk about! we will be getting there, no worries).
In cultural tourism, visitors seek to "know, understand and enjoy the set of traits and distinctive elements, spiritual and material, intellectual and affective that characterize a society or social group of a specific destination" (Molinar 2006:11).
Local guide Don Peter, teaches us about cacti in Zapotitlán Salinas, a natural biosphere reserve in the borders between Oaxaca an Puebla, México.
There are two types of cultural tourists: those who visit a cultural attraction specifically (tourists of special interest), and those who visit it because they are offered the opportunity during a trip that has other reasons (tourist of occasional interest) (Molinar 2006).
Cultural tourism seeks to exploit the tourist potential of localities that preserve its cultural heritage, its traditions, customs, archaeological and natural attractions. Asadi (2011) argues that cultural tourism is also based on cultural attractions that include shows or live performances, museums or other religious, traditional and artistic attractions. Tourism has become the way communities can reflect their identity and customs. So the cultural tourist is one who visits a place to experience and know the cultural attributes of the locality, whether historical or archaeological monuments, artistic or social, natural or intangible.
Now that you know this, would you consider yourself a cultural tourist?
In my opinion, there are two main ideas to be discussed (out of many many other ones); one of them is that cultural tourism it self is becoming massive, yeah, referring to mass tourism; various destinations around the globe receive mainly cultural tourism, think about all the backpackers (although there are some that are specialized in bar crawling tourism) and families that visit archeological sites, the long queues to enter museums in Europe, or having to book months in advance your entry to a monumental site. Obviously this is a good thing, cultural -but mass- tourism enables mass tourism to be educated, to learn and understand different cultures.
The second idea whilst introducing cultural tourism, is that cultural tourism has been the trigger for many communities and nations to revisit their idea of identity and how they portrait it in the world. It enables the nations to brand themselves it in the international markets such as tourism. But what happens in a local scale? How does tourism affects the cities and villages, the identities and the daily way of life?
Keep tuned, we are going to discuss more of these implications on the blog!