This paper aims to bridge the epistemological gap between heritage and tourism in understanding (and describing) the link between what is protected in heritage and what is a sustainable use of heritage as a tourism resource. This is accomplished by focusing on the socio-cultural dimension of heritage.
Three case studies involving UNESCO World Heritage sites and representing different stages of tourism development from three different developing economies are discussed. The case studies are based on the author’s extensive monitoring and evaluation of World Heritage Site management over the course of a decade, including tourism management, and they feature in-depth discussions with government heritage authorities and with heritage and tourism experts and stakeholders; observation and monitoring activities; and review of policy and project documents, heritage and tourism plans, UNESCO and other professional bodies’ reports and academic research works.
A symbiotic relationship between the environment, people and economy and the multi-sectoral nature of the tourism industry makes achieving sustainable development goals almost impossible unless there is a coordinated and integrated approach by the all parties involved, especially in culturally and naturally sensitive areas. The spirit of place is used as a conceptual framework in the application of systems. Theories seem to be the way forward for a sustainable management of tourism in such areas.
The paper addresses an important and under-researched aspect of tourism-heritage encounters: How the socio-cultural impacts of tourism affect the value of cultural heritage, especially in the context of developing economies.
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