According to the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNTWO),"cultural and heritage attractions are key to tourism development in many countries around the world". Here at Tasteful Travel we agree.
The UNESCO World Heritage Centre defines heritage as “our legacy from the past, what we live with today, and what we pass on to future generations. Our cultural and natural heritages are irreplaceable sources of life and inspiration.” The concept of heritage has has come to mean more than the tangible, such as museums, historic sites and awe-inspiring landscapes. Now daily life and living history are equally important and serve as tourist attractions in themselves. In fact, experiential tourism, where you immerse yourself in the culture and lifestyle as well as viewing the sights, is a growing trend.
This kind of cultural and heritage tourism can support local economic development as well as break down barriers between people. It can also safeguard heritage so that traditions as well as landmarks and natural habitats are preserved for posterity. Heritage tourism can be responsible and sustainable rather than suffocating cultural heritage. There are a huge number of UNESCO World Heritage sites and these now cover cultural landscapes, itineraries, industrial heritage, deserts, coastal-marine and small-island sites. These designations should help to preserve these habitats and living culture.
Cultural heritage is often brought to life in carnivals and other gala days. Local festivals and celebrations can be just as interesting as those known globally. I have fond memories of the Aloha Festival in Hana on Maui, watching the Greek Orthodox Easter procession in Kassiopi on Corfu, the Green Hop Festival in Canterbury and many more. These memories are just as vivid as seeing Sydney Opera House, the Acropolis and the Grand Canal in Venice. In fact our latest visit was to the Weald & Downland Living Museum, a place devoted to telling the stories of rural life in the South East of England. By rescuing and conserving historic buildings and teaching traditional crafts and trades they are kept alive and the history and culture of the area is preserved in a vibrant and fascinating way.
Another benefit of heritage tourism is that tourist numbers are spread more evenly through a region, rather than huge numbers of visitors honing in on individual iconic sites. Instead of queuing for space to watch the sun go down by the windmill in Oia, Santorini; trying to get a clear shot of the Taj Mahal; jostling to get a glimpse of the Mona Lisa at the Louvre, Paris; squeezing down the alleys of Matchu Piccu; or elbowing the crowds in Venice, why not avoid the masses and visit nearby areas which are often equally interesting. Joining a cultural tour is a good way to find those hidden gems.
Don't just go on holiday, travel to experience your destination, bringing the past to life through the stories and lives of those around you.