From Diggers to Baristas: Tourist Shopping Villages in the Victorian Goldfields

By Frost, Warwick | Journal of Hospitality and Tourism Management, August 2006 | Go to article overview

From Diggers to Baristas: Tourist Shopping Villages in the Victorian Goldfields


Frost, Warwick, Journal of Hospitality and Tourism Management


This article examines the relationships between heritage tourism and shopping. It considers two towns--Castlemaine and Maldon--which were established in the Australian Gold Rushes of the 1850s. Both towns feature relatively intact 19th century streetscapes and mining areas. They are also vibrant tourist shopping areas, including restaurants, cafes, antiques shops, galleries and craft shops. Drawing on evidence from a 2-year study of visitors, it is argued the combination of shopping and heritage is attractive to tourists and that many tourists engage in both. Furthermore, it is argued that while heritage attracts visitors, the economic benefits are captured by restaurants, cafes and shops.

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Rural Australia is scattered with small country towns competing to attract visitors. Faced with common problems--including declining employment opportunities in agriculture and forestry, the closure of services (particularly banks) and the drift of the young to the cities--rural communities have focused attention on tourism and hospitality as means for economic and social revitalisation. In the search for an attractive destination image, many rural towns emphasise their cultural heritage of 19th century settlement.

Based on research in Canada, Getz developed the concept of Tourist Shopping Villages:

   defined as small towns and villages that base
   their tourist appeal on retailing, often in a picas
   ant setting marked by historical or natural
   amenities. They are found along touring routes,
   in destination areas and near urban centres, but
   are markedly different from urban business and
   shopping districts in terms of their small scale,
   speciality retailing and distinct ambience (Getz,
   1993, p. 15).

Such a concept may easily be applied to Australia, and it is surprising that this has only rarely occurred. Numerous small Australian towns trade on their heritage streetscapes as an ambient setting for shopping, cafes and restaurants. Some examples of Australian Tourist Shopping Villages are given in Table 1. The success of such towns is seemingly built upon the successful marriage of their heritage and shopping and hospitality offerings. These Tourist Shopping Villages provide instructive examples of the greater propensity to spend of cultural heritage tourists (Silberberg, 1995; Timothy, 2005) and the tendency of some businesses, such as antique shops, to develop as clusters (Michael, 2002).

However, there are three main difficulties with the concept of Tourist Shopping Villages and its application to Australia. First, shopping and cultural heritage are usually considered as at opposite ends of the tourism spectrum. Visiting heritage places is a serious pursuit, often linked with education, respect for the past, even of pilgrimage. In contrast, shopping may be viewed as far less serious, even trivial. Even worse, an emphasis on shops and commercial activities may have negative effects on the atmosphere, physical fabric and authenticity of heritage places. High visitor flows may encourage developments which have little relationship to the heritage of an area. Heritage may become little more than a pleasant background for shopping, browsing and eating (Cegielski, Janeczko, Mules, & Wells, 2001). Examples of shopping overwhelming cultural heritage include Wigan in England (Hewison, 1987, pp. 21-24), Gettysberg in the United States (Patterson, 1989), the Rocks in Sydney (Waitt, 2000) and Glenrowan (Frost, 2006).

Second, it may be thought that wherever there is tourism, there will be shopping. This is not automatically the case with heritage tourism. Clunes, for example, is a Victorian Gold Rush town and in 2001 it was officially designated as the place where gold was first discovered in 1851. However, despite a steady flow of heritage tourists, there has practically been no development of shops and cafes for tourists. In some cases, shopping facilities are restricted by the managers of heritage sites. …

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