Taken from the National Trust for Preservation website cultural heritage tourism is defined as traveling to experience the places, artifacts and activities that authentically represent the stories and people of the past and present. It includes cultural, historic and natural resources. Heritage tourism is also a great way for the lay person to understand the importance of preservation and those strongest connections are made through experience. And what’s great about heritage tourism, it’s a powerful economic tool that it creates jobs and it helps strengthen local economies just by using the resources that are already there.
There are five principles the National Trust has come up with to help ensure the success of heritage tourism programs; first is to collaborate. It is necessary to build partnerships because successful tourism is dependent on the involvement of the entire community from business owners, to political figures, to the residents themselves. Second, it’s important to find the right fit. There are lots of things to consider when creating a tourism program in other areas. Local priorities may be different depending on the resources that exist and how willing the community is ready to accept an influx of visitors by sharing those resources. Third is making sites and programs come alive. Most of what people remember are the experiences that they’ve had and the things they have done and not just seeing, hearing, or reading what is in front of them. Fourth is to focus on quality and authenticity. I believe this to be the most important step. Knowing the true story and sharing it with others is what makes a place unique. Visitors want the real story so that they can share their experiences with others. It’s a disservice to past generations to make changes to history in order to gain visitors. And finally it is import to preserve and protect those cultural, historic, and natural resources and not just with a quick fix. There are even stories to tell in the way a building was put together not to mention these places are the bread and butter for the community.
Creating a heritage tourism program seems obvious especially in these economically difficult times and it can be truly successful if given the chance and if the above steps are followed. However, it won’t work without cultural resources to experience and therein lies the ever present importance of preservation. Not only do we work with what we already have and find ways to build a bridge from to the past to the present in the process we end up protecting our heritage and we also develop a sense of pride in doing so which makes us want to share it all the more.