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Interpretation and tourism: holy grail or emperor’s robes?

Gianna Moscardo (Professor based at College of Law, Business and Governance, James Cook University, Townsville, Australia)

International Journal of Culture, Tourism and Hospitality Research

ISSN: 1750-6182

Article publication date: 30 September 2014



This paper aims to address the question – is heritage interpretation an effective tool in tourism?


The author takes a critical stance seeking to identify and evaluate key assumptions and questions about the nature and effectiveness of heritage interpretation as a tourism management tool.


There are significant gaps in the available research into interpretation and in those areas that have been studied, there is only limited evidence that interpretation is effective. There are few important findings in this area and even where there are some sound and useful conclusions, they still do not address some of the more fundamental concerns about interpretation more broadly.

Research limitations/implications

The paper identifies a set of topics for future research based on the outcomes of the review and consideration of the critiques of interpretation that could be used to improve and extend interpretation in tourism.


By taking a critical perspective on interpretation and questioning the untested and implicit assumptions about the nature and role of this activity within tourism, the paper identifies issues relevant to the conduct of tourism research more generally that have been given little attention in the academic literature to date.



Moscardo, G. (2014), "Interpretation and tourism: holy grail or emperor’s robes?", International Journal of Culture, Tourism and Hospitality Research, Vol. 8 No. 4, pp. 462-476.



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