What do we mean by “cultural tourism”?

I was talking to James Hazell earlier this morning on the BBC Radio Suffolk Breakfast Show about the growth of cultural tourism in Suffolk.  This was following up on the recent launch of the “Look Sideways – East” collaboration to promote this aspect of tourism and leisure focused in Norfolk & Suffolk.  Tourism plays a key part in the growth economy as an industrial / economic sector, and from data published by VisitEngland as part of the annual national survey of visits to visitor attractions, the East of England outperformed other regions of the UK in terms of visitor admission trends in 2014, with a 10% increase in visits.  On a global basis, according to World Tourism Organisation figures published in 2014,  cultural tourism accounts 37% of the world tourism market, and is projected to increase by 17% year on year.

But what do we mean by ‘cultural tourism’? There are plenty of textbooks and articles which use the term, and alongside the word ‘heritage’ it can be interpreted in a myriad of ways according to activities being described, motivations being analysed, or resources being developed and visited.  From my own perspective, it is fundamentally about the relationships which are formed between a visitor as a person, as opposed to a consumer, and a place.  It encompasses time depth, emotional response, and a complex set of layers of interaction between a person and their physical (built and natural) environment as well as other people (locals) in that place.  It would not be overstating it to suggest that cultural tourism is really about the opportunity to ‘bond‘ with a location and it’s identity – to feel it and for it to have a lasting effect in the memory as a ‘connection’.  There are many triggers which may generate this highly personal response to a tourism activity, from customer service, to interpretation, engaging activities, artistic practices, quality of environment, sense of place, and so on.  Everyone is different, so the ‘sweet spot’ to produce the ultimate cultural tourism experience is probably an impossible challenge, but it is encouraging to see an approach such as the Look Sideways campaign, which is taking the personalised approach of ‘curated experiences‘ which highlight personalised connection opportunities – with people, histories, sights, sounds and locations.

I have the advantage of being a member of the ICOMOS-UK Cultural Tourism Committee which works to understand and promote best practice in cultural tourism, as part of a wider global network which has a Charter for managing tourism at places with cultural heritage significance – but it remains a challenge to properly understand the concept and from an operational point of view to manage in a low key way something as fluid as the unique cultural identity of a place so that it remains dynamic and attractive as a ‘must-immerse’ cultural experience.

Exploring the Architecture of Wales

1995

1995

The aim of this pocket guide by John B. Hilling is to assist ‘the reader in the recognition of the wide variety of buildings to be seen in the Welsh landscape and townscape’. There are line drawings, plans, and photographs. The guide is divided into 22 sections from ‘Early Medieval: Early Christian’ (e.g. Llangorse crannog) to ‘Late Modern’. There is a short glossary and then a ‘Gazeteer of Important Buildings’ consisting of 160 locations.

Step into Castle Acre

1952 [1970]

1952 [1970]

The original Office of Works guide to Castle Acre Priory in Norfolk was prepared in 1936.It had been placed under state guardianship in 1913. The guidebook was split into two distinct sections: the history by Frederick J.E. Raby, Fellow of Jesus College, Cambridge, and the description by Paul K. Baillie Reynolds, foermly Chief Inspector of Ancient Monuments. (The pair also collaborated on the guidebook to Framlingham Castle.) My Ministry of Public Buildings and Works (MPBW) ‘Official Guidebook’ is the eleventh impression (1970) of the second edition (1952). The cost was 2 shillings [10 p].  There is a fold-out plan inside the back cover. The cover shows the crest of the priory taken from the gatehouse (see the English Heritage guidebook, p. 22 [for position]).

1952 [1979]

1952 [1979]

My 1979 Department of the Environment (DOE) ‘Official Handbook’ (note the change from ‘Official Guidebook’) is the fourteenth impression (1979) of the second edition (1952). The price is now 50 p. Essentially the text and images are the same although there are minor changes. Raby is now listed as ‘Sometime’ Assistant Secretary in the Ministry of Works.

2008 [2013]

2008 [2013]

The English Heritage guidebook by Edward Impey covers Castle Acre Priory and Castle (2008; revised reprint 2013). This colour guide has a Priory Tour  (pp. 4-23), a Castle Tour (pp. 24-31), and a History (pp. 32-48). There are fold-out plans of the village and priory inside the front and back covers. There is a wonderful archive photograph of the first uniformed custodian, William Savage, who was appointed in 1929.

Scotland’s new Archaeology Strategy

A brand new 10 year Archaeology Strategy for Scotland was launched at Europe’s biggest archaeology conference in Glasgow today (European Archaeological Association).
Scotland's Archaeology Strategy

Scotland’s Archaeology Strategy

Scotland’s Archaeology Strategy has been developed by the Scottish Strategic Archaeology Committee, coordinated by Historic Scotland, with input from over 200 people from across the archaeology sector in Scotland and beyond. It sets out a shared national vision that Scotland’s archaeology should benefit everyone in society.

It complements work that has been undertaken over the past few years by the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, as part of the ScARF (Scotland’s Archaeological Research Framework), and puts in place a framework for the new national heritage organisation, Historic Environment Scotland, to support archaeology as an integral part of our lived and natural environment.

Hebridean Heritage: Dun Beag

Dun Beag, Skye © David Gill

Dun Beag, Skye © David Gill

The broch at Dun Beag on Skye holds a commanding position looking out towards the Western Isles, near Bracadale. It is approximately 11 m in diameter. It is estimated that it originally stood to some 10 m. Although the broch probably dates to the first century AD, it appears to have continued into use up to the 18th century.

The broch is in the care of Historic Scotland.

Virtually Exploring St Kilda

A 3D animation of St Kilda is now available online. This video shares the island’s heritage with a wider audience. It includes some interesting reworkings of archive photographs.

St Kilda is a World Heritage site, and is part managed by the National Trust for Scotland.