Heeding the Call for Heritage Tourism: More Visitors Want an "Experience" in Their Vacations-Something a Historical Park Can Provide

Article excerpt

Heritage tourism, a niche segment that first rose to prominence among researchers and the tourism industry in the 1990s, remains one of the most significant, and fastest growing forms of leisure travel within the American market. Recent various market analyses and academic investigations have been conducted, that when combined, begin to demonstrate the many potential benefits, as well as some of the more contentious issues, associated with the use of heritage as a tourism attraction.

What is "Heritage Tourism"?

Heritage tourism involves travel to sites that in some way represent or celebrate an area, community, or people's history; identity or inheritance. Heritage attractions are typically divided into three categories: natural, cultural and built. Figure 1 on page 41 provides examples of each. In academic writings as illustrated in Figure 2 on page 42, various other, more specific types of heritage tourism have been identified.

Figure 1. The Three Categories of Heritage Attraction

NATURAL            CULTURAL                  BUILT

Landforms,         Festivals,                Historic homes,
rural scenery,     arts/crafts,              monuments,
flora and fauna    traditional practices/    industrial sites
                   products

Figure 2. Specific Types of Heritage Tourism

Type of Tourism/Attraction   Description and Example(s)

Literary tourism             Travel to "literary places," linked to
                             writers (e.g., their homes or birthplaces)
                             and/or the settings of their novels
                             (Herbert, 2001)
Legacy tourism               Travel related to genealogical endeavors,
                             e.g., to search for information on, or to
                             feel more connected to, ancestors
                             and ancestral roots (McCain & Ray, 2003)
Historaunts/                 Restaurants as heritage attractions,
eatertainment                providing not just food and beverages, but
                             a complete tourist experience
                             (Josiam, Mattson, & Sullivan, 2004)
Dark tourism/                Travel to places associated with death,
thanotourism                 disaster or other tragic or gruesome
                             occurrences (Lennon & Foley, 2000;
                             Austin, 2002)
Industrial heritage          Visits to unused industrial sites such as
tourism                      former collieries and factories (Prentice,
                             Witt & Hamer, 1998; Prideaux, 2002)

Heritage tourism can take place at individual sites, as well as, increasingly, in "heritage areas" (e.g., the MotorCities--Automobile National Heritage Area in Michigan) and along "heritage routes," "corridors" and "trails" (e.g., the Coal Mining Heritage Route in southern West Virginia, South Carolina National Heritage Corridor, and Maine Maritime Heritage Trail). In some cases, cities may promote themselves, or districts within them, as heritage destinations, as discussed in Orba_li (2000), Russo (2002) and Litvin (in press).

Who Are "Heritage Tourists"?

The number of tourists seeking some kind of heritage experience during their vacation continues to increase. The Travel Industry Association of America (TIA, 2003) estimates that 81 percent of the 146.4 million U.S. adults who took a trip (of 50 miles or more) in 2002 can be considered cultural tourists (based on their participation in at least one of 15 arts, humanities, historic or heritage events or activities). TIA estimates that historic/cultural travel increased 13 percent between 1996 and 2000, with trips increasing from 192.4 million to 216.8 million, while Marjanaa and Quintos (2001) report an 18 percent increase in spending on heritage travel between 1995 and 2000. Hargrove (2002) noted that one-third of international visitors to the U. …

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