Cultural Tourism is the subset of tourism concerned with a country or region’s culture, specifically the lifestyle of the people in those geographical areas, the history of those people, their art, architecture, religion(s), and other elements that helped shape their way of life. Cultural tourism includes tourism in urban areas, particularly historic or large cities and their cultural facilities such as museums and theatres. It can also include tourism in rural areas showcasing the traditions of indigenous cultural communities (i.e. festivals, rituals), and their values and lifestyle, as well as niches like industrial tourism and creative tourism. It is generally agreed that cultural tourists spend substantially more than standard tourists do. This form of tourism is also becoming generally more popular throughout the world, and a recent OECD report has highlighted the role that cultural tourism can play in regional development in different world regions.
Cultural tourism has been defined as ‘the movement of persons to cultural attractions away from their normal place of residence, with the intention to gather new information and experiences to satisfy their cultural needs’. These cultural needs can include the solidification of one’s own cultural identity, by observing the exotic “other”.
Cultural tourism has a long history, and with its roots in the Grand Tour is arguably the original form of tourism. It is also one of the forms of tourism that most policy makers seem to be betting on for the future. The World Tourism Organisation, for example, asserted that cultural tourism accounted for 37% of global tourism, and forecast that it would grow at a rate of 15% per year. Such figures are often quoted in studies of the cultural tourism market
A recent study of the cultural consumption habits of Europeans (European Commission 2002) indicated that people visited museums and galleries abroad almost as frequently as they did at home. This underlines the growing importance of cultural tourism as a source of cultural consumption. The generalisation of cultural consumption on holiday, however, points to one of the main problems of defining cultural tourism. What is the difference between cultural visits on holiday (cultural tourism) and cultural visits undertaken during leisure time at home? Much of the research undertaken by the Association for Leisure and Tourism Education (ATLAS) on the international cultural tourism market has in fact underlined the high degree of continuity between consumption of culture at home and on holiday.
In spite of these problems, policy makers, tourist boards and cultural attraction managers around the world continue to view cultural tourism as an important potential source of tourism growth. There is a general perception that cultural tourism is ’good’ tourism that attracts high spending visitors and does little damage to the environment or local culture while contributing a great deal to the economy and support of culture. Other commentators, however, have suggested that cultural tourism may do more harm than good, allowing the cultural tourist to penetrate sensitive cultural environments as the advance guard of the mass tourist.
One type of cultural tourism destination is living cultural areas. Visiting any culture other than one’s own such as traveling to a foreign country. Other destinations include historical sites, modern urban districts, “ethnic pockets” of town, fairs/festivals, theme parks, and natural ecosystems. It has been shown that cultural attractions and events are particularly strong magnets for tourism. The term cultural tourism is used for journeys that include visits to cultural resources, regardless of whether it is tangible or intangible cultural resources, and regardless of the primary motivation. In order to understand properly the concept of cultural tourism, it is necessary to know the definitions of a number terms such as, for example, culture, tourism, cultural economy, cultural and tourism potentials, cultural and tourist offer, and others.