In recent times, historical and heritage sites have been capable of attracting a large number of tourists due to the fascination associated with such destinations. Tourists travel to experience artefacts and places that represent the past and the stories of people. Heritage tourism includes cultural destinations, historic destinations and natural resources.
Heritage tourism is an important part of the country’s economy. The United Kingdom has a rich cultural and historical heritage that has been passed down through generations. There are 32 recognized heritage sites in the UK which include Blenheim Palace, City of Bath, Durham Castle and Cathedral, Forth Bridge and Tower of London (National Trust, n.d.). In the year 2019 alone, 218.4 visits in the UK were associated with heritage tourism which led to spending of £17.0 billion (Centre for Economics and Business Research, 2019). Heritage tourism is an important source of income in the local economies and thus it is important to create well planned and detailed marketing plans to attract tourists to heritage destinations.
The main aim of the research is to analyze the potential of Heritage tourism in the United Kingdom and analyze the problems that are faced in their development. The research will also highlight the areas that have been overlooked and can be turned into huge assets for attracting tourists towards these sites. Social media and the portrayal of sites in different movies is also assumed to be an important factor in motivating the tourists to visit new sites, the authenticity of this assumption will also be tested in the research.
The objective of the research is to enumerate various opportunities for improving heritage tourism in the United Kingdom. The research also aims to understand the contribution that can be made by heritage tourism in reviving the sector after the pandemic.
National Trust has defined heritage tourism as “travelling to experience the places, artefacts and activities that authentically represent the stories of the past and present. It includes cultural, historic and natural resources” (National Trust for Historic Preservation, 2008). Ahmed (2006) explained heritage places as those sites which enrich the present while developing an understanding of the past and communicating values to the future generations. Heritage tourism is a very effective tool for economic development as it attracts motivated travellers, who have an interest in the art, science, and lifestyle of a community, group or region, from the exterior of the host community (Silberberg, 1995). Due to the involvement of knowledge gaining about the new cultures in terms of intellect, aesthetics and emotions heritage tourism is classified as special interest tourism (Wen & Wu, 2020).
Chang (1999) stated that heritage tourism is capable of providing a sense of belongingness to the locals and increasing the cultural sensitivity among the people. He also stated that it satisfies the leisure and cultural aspirations of the local community. the promotion of heritage tourism is extremely vital for a country’s economic development as such tourists usually have longer stays and spend a greater amount of money (The Advisory Council on Historic Preservation, n.d.).
Cultural and heritage tourism will keep on expanding as the number of tourists seeking an authentic experience from their journey is increasing (McKercher, 2020). Nawijn (2012) stated that it is important to understand the relationship between perceived value and experience quality of the travellers. It is important to ensure that the self-actualization of the tourists is fulfilled which is ensured by offering opportunities to closely interact with the local cultures. The increments in educational opportunities available to the tourists can also improve the tourist experience (Packer & Ballantyne, 2004).
The policymakers must understand that heritage is a very important factor in the country’s economy and it should be viewed as a liability. Simon Thurley a professor at the Institute of Historical Research, UK conducted a study in Europe and explained categorically that investments in the cultural heritage can strengthen Europe’s economy and produce benefits expanding beyond tourism (May 2020).
While generally the economic impacts of tourism are studied by various institutions, in recent times the focus of tourism studies have shifted on understanding the environmental and the social and cultural impact of tourism.
Pooria et al. (2003) investigated the relationship between personal characteristics, perceptions, awareness and site attributes to understand the core of heritage tourism. The results of his study clearly illustrated that perception of a place as a fragment of personal heritage is linked with the patterns of visitations; specifically, the individuals who consider a place to be a part of their heritage act differently. Numerous countries are becoming increasingly dependent on tourism as it is one of the most sustainable and rational development choices as it creates employment opportunities and also attracts foreign earnings in the country (UNWTO, 2010).
The preference of the tourists for innovative e-services for enhancing their experience of visiting a heritage destination before, during and after a visit is increasing (Strielkowski, et al., 2012). This creates numerous opportunities which can be capitalized on. Stuart-Hoyle and Lovell (2006) suggest that for broadening the perceptions of cultural heritage its active consumption must be encouraged. They also recommended linking the traditional heritage products with the creative industry such as architecture, fashion, media so that tolerance and acceptance for cultural diversity can be increased. The demand for more quality-oriented services among tourists is also increasing. Heritage tourism is also highly sensitive to the quality of services that are offered to them because such tourists are generally more educated and have greater disposable income. The correlation between the experiences that visitors derive from their interaction with the culture and the quality of services they receive affects the heritage tourism business (Surugiu & Surugiu, 2015).
The primary data for the research will be collected from the locals and the natives around the main heritage tourist destinations and from the frequent travellers across the globe. The data from the locals will be collected through a series of interviews. The interviewees will be asked a set of pre-conceived questions in personal structured interviews. The target population for the interviews will include those residing in areas surrounding prominent heritage destinations in London. The main objective of the interview questions will be to analyze the opportunities that can be capitalized on to improve the appeal of heritage destinations. The interview questions will also attempt to explore the concerns that the locals have in regard to heritage tourism. This will also offer insights into the positive impact of heritage tourism. The data will also be collected on the basis of a survey which will be posted on different social media platforms. The questionnaire will be posted with relevant hashtags so that it can reach the targeted audience. The questionnaire will mainly focus on three dimensions. Firstly, the impact of heritage sites in motivating tourists to visit a country. Secondly, the concerns that the travellers have while visiting heritage destinations in the UK and lastly to analyze the impact of social media and movies in promoting heritage destinations. The sample size for the interviews is around 100 whereas that for the survey is 500. The secondary data for research will be collected by referring to various government reports and television programs that discuss heritage tourism in the UK.
The data analysis process will be carried out while focusing on the sustainability of heritage tourism and the scope of enhancing the economic contributions made by heritage terrorism. The data will be assigned preliminary codes for describing the content so that patterns and themes in content can be identified easily. The survey results will be analyzed on basis of scores that will be calculated on basis of answers submitted by the tourists.
It is anticipated that the majority of the residents will agree on the benefits of heritage tourism in supporting the infrastructural development and in the generation of employment opportunities. The study will also illustrate that the travellers and the residents both feel that the creation of budget hostels and other amenities at low prices can make large contributions in improving tourism in heritage destinations. The study might also highlight the success of the government initiatives to offer better exposure to the heritage destinations and might also suggest more efficient techniques for aggressive marketing and advertising for further increasing the visibility of such sites. The research will also highlight that the biggest concern for travellers is the expensive costs that they have to endure while travelling to heritage destinations in the United Kingdom. The positive impact of social media, mentions in literature and movies in promoting heritage destinations.
The increasing popularity of heritage tourism all across the globe has the potential of creating numerous opportunities. The research is targeted at enhancing the contribution that is made by heritage tourism in the economy. The growth of culture and heritage tourism is directly associated with growth in employment generation in the region and also supports other cultural industries like clothes, food, ornaments, festivals etc. The research will help in the growth of culture and heritage in the region which will make it more attractive to local and foreign tourists and will showcase the rich culture of the United Kingdom to the entire world.
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