Academic journal article Theoretical and Empirical Researches in Urban Management

Conceptualizing a Sustainable Development Model for Cultural Heritage Tourism in Asia

Academic journal article Theoretical and Empirical Researches in Urban Management

Conceptualizing a Sustainable Development Model for Cultural Heritage Tourism in Asia

Article excerpt


In general terms, cultural heritages are composed of dance, cuisine, architecture, attire, festivals, music, literature, drama, folk stories and other activities that bear lots of traditional values related to aesthetics, archeology, anthropology, science and sociology. With the increasingly fast development of the society and economy plus rapid urban modernization, people have begun to realize the importance of cultural heritage in enhancing the feeling of national pride, emotions of patriotism and national cohesion. Thus, to extensively seek and utilize the huge potentials of cultural heritage in economic development, social progress, and cultural succession, many industries and organizations have regarded cultural heritages as a new growth point with good prospects as well as a very sustainable source of numerous benefits. However, these parties are facing the common dilemma of how to balance protection with development, as to date, there seems to be no likely or effective way to solve this predicament. Moreover, since every region or country has been becoming more multicultural at an unprecedented rate than before, the problem has become more and more prevalent and serious.

In the field of tourism study, cultural heritage has been regarded as one of the most important attractions. The great charms with irresistible temptations from cultural heritage destinations have been enthralling tourists all over the world. However, akin to a doubled-edged sword, cultural heritage tourism (CHT) inevitability would bring some pressure on cultural protection to a certain extent especially within the multicultural context. As an example, China and Malaysia are ranked as the top two Asian countries in the Top International Destinations List in 2009 according to international tourist arrivals by the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), respectively ranked No4 (50.9 million) and No9 (23.6 million) in the world (UNWTO, 2010). Moreover, Lijiang in China and Penang in Malaysia are destinations with the most excellent and representative cultural tourism attractions with multicultural characteristics in Asia, with both of them inscribed as World Cultural Heritage cities by UNESCO respectively in 1997 and 2008 due to their living culture and historic buildings that have remained until now. In 2009, Lijiang city received 7.5814 million tourists with an annual growth rate of 21.21% and achieved a consolidated tourism income of 8.866 billion RMB with an annual growth rate of 27.49% (Yuan, 2010). The tourism output value has accounted for over 50% of the total gross national product of Lijiang. Meanwhile, Penang hosted 5.9603 million hotel guests in 2009 (Tourism Malaysia, 2010). Tourism has now become the second most important source of revenue after manufacturing in Penang.

However, as Hunter (1997) and Van der Borg and Russo (1999) argued, that tourism in heritage cities can prove to be unsustainable, the base of tourism development in the two tourist sites have been imperceptibly destroyed, resulting in the disappearance of many valuable heritage sites due to rapid tourism development, even though massive income has been gained from CHT. Furthermore, some incidental effects of tourism, such as migration of aborigines/locals, loss of authenticity, over-commercial development and moral degeneration, are undoubtedly undermining the sustainable potentials of CHT development and even the local economies and societies.

In order to alleviate the common problems in CHT sites, this research aims to facilitate the sustainable development of CHT. Even more importantly, through comparing Lijiang and Penang, a more sustainable CHT development model can be constructed in terms of the comparative framework based on previous related research. Undoubtedly, the model will in turn make great contributions to the protection and development of general cultural heritage sites.


Since the late 1980s, sustainable development has become a buzzword in development studies, especially within the tourism research circles (Liu, 2003). …

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