Cultural Heritage Tourism along the Viking Trail: An Analysis of Tourist Brochures for Attractions on the Northern Peninsula of Newfoundland

By Palmer, Craig T.; Wolff, Benjamin et al. | Newfoundland and Labrador Studies, Fall 2008 | Go to article overview

Cultural Heritage Tourism along the Viking Trail: An Analysis of Tourist Brochures for Attractions on the Northern Peninsula of Newfoundland


Palmer, Craig T., Wolff, Benjamin, Cassidy, Chris, Newfoundland and Labrador Studies


INTRODUCTION

THE GROWING ANTHROPOLOGICAL INTEREST in tourism has been primarily due to tourism's large, and often uneven, economic impact on people around the world (Desmond 1999, xvii; Fotsch 2004). Additionally, a great deal of tourism is focused on the cultural diversity that makes up the subject matter of cultural anthropology. This diversity is the primary "attractor" (what attracts tourists to an area, see Smith 1977/1989, 4-6) of visitors in many tourism industries. Diversity plays a secondary, or other important role, in many others. This paper examines the function of different cultural heritage categories in the tourist promotion of the Great Northern Peninsula of Newfoundland. It also includes a discussion of how tourist brochures take the archaeological evidence from a small, thousand-year-old Norse settlement and use it as a dominant part of the area's ethnic heritage as a strategy to attract tourists.

CULTURAL HERITAGE TOURISM

There are many ways to categorize forms of tourism, and Bruner notes that any typology of tourism designed for one setting may be of limited use in analyzing the complexity of tourism in other times and places (2005, 71). Adler points out, for example, that starting in the late eighteenth century types of tourism were known as "travel styles," and that "many travellers overtly gave themselves and their journeys such labels as 'romantic,' 'picturesque,' 'philosophical,' 'curious,' and 'sentimental.'" (Adler 1989, 1371-2). We follow the more recent practice of dividing tourism into categories on the basis of "attractors"--things which encourage people to attend a site or consume a commodity. Although there are many ways of creating "categories of tourist attractions" (Yale 1991, 2), most studies focused on tourist attractors attempt to answer the question: "What are the forces that cause people to leave home during their leisure time?" (Nash 1981, 464). This study focuses upon words that evoke attractors in tourist brouchres. Specifically, we examine attractors that use categories of people defined (at least implicitly) as sharing cultural traditions due to a common ancestry, and as distinct from other categories of people on the basis of this asserted ancestry. It is this focus on both the distinctness of a culture, and the extension of that culture into the past, which makes this a study of "cultural heritage" tourism.

The "cultural" part of the term "cultural heritage" requires that the category include a distinctiveness, regardless of what else may distinguish the category of people. "Heritage" has been a "buzz word" of the tourism industry since the 1970s (Yale 1991, 20-21). Although there is debate over how narrowly to define "heritage" (Garrod and Fyall 2000; Poria et al. 2001), there is general agreement that to qualify as cultural "heritage" the cultural distinctiveness of the attractor must at least be perceived as having a significant temporal dimension. This is because "strictly speaking, heritage refers to that which has been or may be inherited ..." (McCrone et al. 1995, 1; see also Yale 1991, 21).

The direct or indirect contact with people whose cultural behaviours the tourist industry portrays as having been distinct over an extended period of time plays an important role in many tourist industries. Indeed, some researchers have stressed that tradition or cultural heritage is the "product" most often consumed in many tourist industries (McCrone et al. 1995, 20; Alsayyad 2001; Timothy and Boyd 2006). Further, there are other attractors that are similar and may overlap with cultural heritage tourism, such as "ethnic" tourism. As long as "ethnicity" is seen to have a cultural as opposed to "racial" basis, then ethnic tourism also involves the two ingredients of culture and a temporal dimension. This is implied by the use of the phrase "cultural background" when van den Berghe writes:

what defines ethnic tourism is the nature of the tourist attractant: ethnic tourism exists where the tourist actively searches for ethnic exoticism. …

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