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Cultural Heritage Tourism

Cultural heritage tourism is a natural partner to eco and nature-based tourism. Heritage is a broad term applied to things, places and practices, which we value and wish to conserve for future generations. In Australia cultural heritage is often divided into Indigenous heritage and the period following colonisation. Read more
Cultural Heritage Tourism is a natural partner to eco and nature-based tourism. Heritage is a broad term applied to things, places and practices, which we value and wish to conserve for future generations. In Australia cultural heritage is often divided into Indigenous heritage and the period following colonisation.

Many tourists gain exposure to Indigenous culture in national parks and other natural settings. Indigenous people have a deep and ongoing relationship with the Australian landscape. Many Indigenous communities have connections to national parks and other protected areas. In some places this is reflected in joint management or partnerships to manage areas of land for conservation, tourism and cultural heritage outcomes. Indigenous people provide an alterative perspective on land and wildlife management that adds value to contemporary land management practices. Shared or joint management is fundamental to accommodating Aboriginal cultural tourism and its ongoing development in national parks (see DEH's Steps to Sustainable Tourism). It also allows Aboriginal people to share their culture and stories, which in turn can provide tangible benefits to traditional owners.

Research undertaken by the STCRC identify the following benefits from Indigenous Cultural tourism:

  • Economic opportunities for Indigenous groups;
  • Promotion of self determination;
  • Cross cultural exchange;
  • Preservation of traditional cultures, and
  • Natural resource management.

Factors impacting on the successful development of Indigenous tourism include a lack of skills, ownership, and available finance; competition for eco/nature-based tourism; a low market profile; cultural factors; the structure and administration of government programs; and assistance and issues relating to any small and remote business. In addition, the lack of formal and informal business networks between Indigenous people and businesses and the mainstream tourism industry is an impediment. There are also unhelpful mainstream industry perceptions of Indigenous tourism.

Recent research indicates that Australia’s cultural and heritage tourism market in 2007 was predominantly comprised of domestic visitors. In 2007, there were 10.9 million domestic overnight visitors who participated in cultural or heritage activities and 10.4 million domestic day visitors. Since 2006 the number of domestic overnight cultural and heritage visitors has grown by 11% while total domestic overnight visitation remained flat over this same period. Tourism Research Australia (TRA) research indicates international cultural and heritage visitors have increased 3% since 2006. This was slightly higher than total international visitors during this period (2%). Both international (40 nights) and domestic (6 nights) cultural and heritage visitors stay longer than international and domestic non-cultural and heritage visitors (20 nights and 4 nights respectively).

Recent cultural tourism research projects by the STCRC have focused on:

  • The development and implementation of methodologies to estimate the economic value that Australians place on national cultural institutions;
  • Ways to assist the Australian tourism industry (particularly those located in regional and rural areas) in understanding the growing importance of cultural tourism, by developing a number of case studies of cultural landscapes tourism;
  • The development of factors that contribute to success in achieving viable cultural heritage tourism and heritage conservation goals;
  • Examples of cost effective strategies to revive and update interpretation in a heritage tourist attraction, and
  • How to enhance the sustainable use of heritage sites in Australian tourism through the development of a thematic framework for the interpretation of cultural heritage sites for use in tourism.

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