Ποιειν Και Πραττειν - create and do

8. Cultural tourism

The term ‘cultural tourism’ is very much misleading and therefore not readily accepted by many anthropologists, cultural geographers, planners, and artists.[1] If it means to say people come to a certain place because of a specific culture, then there is a danger that such a culture is turned inside out like a glove in order to be available to the gazing eye of tourists brought by buses to throw a glance at the natives before being hustled off again to their buses which shall take them to the next destination.

As James Clifford put it, the risk of culture becoming everywhere the same increases with the MacDonalds and Coca Cola to be found everywhere while the answer to these global businesses cannot be a mere local or regional cultural assertiveness.[2] For that would mistake culture with tradition or a non changeable way of living, dressing, doing work etc. underlining a non negotiable position on what shall be preserved no matter what.

One of the basic issues is what happens to any society, but in particular a local one until then secluded and remote, when it opens up to tourism not only on a small and coincidental but rather on a systematic and massive scale. Greek islands experience already that huge conversion from having 500 people living in the village during the winter months while in the summer that can jump easily to 2000 and more people. As a mayor of such a local town would say, there are not even available simple hospital services to cope with the sudden demand of people injured due to crashing on their rented bikes down on a dirt road.

Even more so, all the talk about preserving local cultures and heritage should not blind one about the possible impact this development has. For a hotelier can house in his building an industrial heritage museum to show what local people used in the production of wine and other products, but by having build such a large hotel he demands from his community to support him in his effort to get the entire island to have an own airport. For only then mass tourism linked with charter planes can set in. The quantitative leap in visitors will then over demand local communities and what infrastructures they can provide.

Speculation in tourist development and all kinds of housing will transform not only the local setting but due to being big business moving in on a large scale by-pass completely the framework any local community has. Consequently the conversion landscapes and changes local societies undergo once the tourist boom sets in, that is the issue of tourism and cultural change with unforeseeable consequences for all aspects of human activity.

Scholars and experts on tourism and culture describe these changes in terms of relationships, tensions, representations and conflicts. [3]

For instance, editors calling for papers to contribute to the Journal of Tourism & Cultural Change would name following fields in need of further research and examination:[4]

In focusing upon these and many other changes, it becomes crucial to observe how and by what means the local and regional societies cope with the changes. There has to be added that cultural changes are brought about by use of foreign languages to communicate with the influx of visitors but more significantly deeper cultural changes shall be reflected in literature, travel writing, translations, learning of other languages, film, art and performances.

Experts make out here following key terms:

A closer look at the role institutions play in facilitating or not change depends where they set their priorities. Given that they have some resources at their disposal, they can be both agents of change and providers of tools to cope with all these changes. Anyone observing how they resolve this duality by not creating such structures which intensify merely ambivalence may come to the conclusion, that a modernization of museums and cultural spaces is neither self-understood or easy to bring about. In many cases the staff of museums may resist internal changes as they still cling to a traditional role they think the museum should play in society, namely to preserve and not to open up to changes. At the same time, there are museums gone completely global and which operate like international corporations. They fit no longer into any local environment. There may need to be a policy in place to prevent the erosion of local cultures but how this is done remains open to debate. Within HERMES the idea was probed that cultural heritage can best be protected by learning to use modern media in order to make cultural heritage accessible. This includes highly technological means to restore, for instance, the Boyanna church outside Sophia in Bulgaria. Naturally other means should be developed and applied in order to facilitate the survival of local and regional traditions. Crucial is that they can document best themselves the changing forms of expression under these new conditions linked to globalization and a changed economic situation.[5]

Commodification of culture

It is a truism that “tourism and the tourist industry continue to commodify, transform, present, represent and consume ‘material’ culture”, so the editors of the Journal “Tourism and Cultural Change”. [6]

Intangible heritage

If such developments means risking to leave out all the elements of an existing ‘intangible culture’ at the location and in the region, then the role of museums can become significant if it understands to make ‘intangible cultural heritage’ become accessible.

For example, the ethnological museum of Vori in Crete depicts how people survived on the island as long it was cut off from any link to the outside world. To any visitor the explanations given and depicted on hand of farm tools, kitchens and differentiated forms of cooking with all spices to be found in Crete, allow for a more precise understanding of the history of Crete.

Crucial in this example is once appreciation of the collection displayed in the museum can be linked to acknowledging survival skills still prevailing today, then the visitor has the feeling there exists an explaination of the special characteristics to be found on the island of Crete. The example indicates at the same time that in the world of globalization there is at risk that many invaluable aspects of a local and regional culture are rejected and lost. This is especially the case if they resist being commodifiable according to the needs of the tourist industry and tourist market.

Accessibilities via Internet

Developments of data bases and easy to be accessed information systems seems to be most essential for a visitor preparing a special trip to a place, city or region. This advance knowledge is a web based experience that has to be handled with care. One obvious question is what entices persons to come rather than believing by having visited the website, they have seen it all already. Naturally the same applies for a visit to a museum: will it remain a virtual one or even more negatively due to a first impression communicated through the web a check-off rather than being included in the concrete program. This means the variety of choices and options have to be programmed in such a way as to allow for follow-ups, matched by ongoing and interesting links at the precise location and not just generally, and furthermore content of information is not binding like a sales pitch but leaves the person free to imagine what can be done at that location.


Tourism and cultural heritage


Shifts in Cultural Heritage Story Telling

Example: Weimar and Goethe

Guide talking in Weimar about Goethe to members of the HERMES project

When a guide begins to question the role Goethe played in allowed a death sentence to be implemented for a girl - Goethe was the third voice asked by the Count after the first voice had said 'no' and the second 'yes' and he said 'yes, she should be executed'. For a poet to pass the death sentence is unimaginable but for this to be revealed by an official guide is like reflecting a change in the policy of the Classic Foundation of Weimar which hires and trains these guides. Likewise this switch in orientation away from the traditional definition of the Classics in Germany linked all the time with Goethe and Schiller was noticable in the construction of the Wielandt museum. The latter was thought to be a much more European poet. The change in cultural heritage policy reflects the political changes. First of all East Germany ceased to exist after 1989 and the West orientation meant European integration.

Performance - Scripts, Stages and Stories

“Performance has been theorised as a way by which human beings act in society and organise their being in the world. In the context of tourism, there is much debate regarding the idea of tourists as performers, 'acting out' spaces, and enacting 'scripts', through which they organise and add meaning to their experiences and journeys. Tourism in this sense can be seen to be 'staged'. But such perspectives raise a number of questions regarding the reflexivity, the hermeneutics, the sensual and aesthetic modalities, the social interactions and the political economy of tourist performance: How is individual tourist performance linked to socially prescribed or learnt models regarding tourism behaviour and spaces? How are spaces and material culture 'enacted' by and for tourists? What are the production and consumption modalities of in situ and in visu stages for tourism performance? How is tourism performance linked to modes of touristic social interaction during the journey? What roles do stories play in generating performativity and in liberating tourists from the acts of travel and tourism? The aim of this conference is to explore such questions by drawing on the methodological and conceptual knowledge of different disciplinary perspectives including those of: tourism studies, anthropology, sociology, history, cultural studies, folkloric studies, literature, critical theory, linguistics, human/cultural geography, psychology, theatre studies and other relevant approaches.” [7]

Tourists turning from art to 'museums of conscience':

When people travel to visit great cities, they often spend most of their time at art museums -- the Louvre, the National Gallery, the Uffizi, the Kunsthistorisches, the Hirshhorn -- and that's all very commendable: These structures display the highest achievements of human art and culture. But recently, tourists have opted for museums that reveal not the achievements but the failures of human society (San Francisco Chronicle)


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2005 International Lake Tourism Conference: Marketing, Development, Protection
Thousand-Island Lake, Hangzhou, China, 22-24 October 2005 - 22/10/2005 - 25/10/2005

Journal of Tourism & Cultural Change

MSc Tourism & Culture
MSc Sustainable Tourism

TOURISM and PERFORMANCE Conference (updated information and programme now available)
Sheffield, 14-18 July 2005


Adventure Tourism, by J.Swarbrooke, Colin Beard, Susanne Leckie and Gill Pomfret.

Tourism and Heritage Management, by Peter Walker and Mike Robinson.
Tourism and Cultural Festivals and Events, by Philip Long and Mike Robinson.

Tourism & Cultural Change



[1] Theano Terkenli,….her criticism of the term ‘cultural tourism’

[2] James Clifford, Predicament of Culture

[3] WEB: www.tourism-culture.com


[5] Here the strategy of the Te Papa National Museum in New Zealand indicates already what shall be the future role of museums, namely helping local and regional societies cope with change. This is done in several ways to preserve identities and tradition by redefining the services a museum has to provide not only to the visitors but to the local communities as well.

[6] See www.channelviewpublications.com

[7] Source of information: EUCLID, Cultural Diary, May 2005

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