The promotion of the cultural and environmental heritage, a major issue for a better tourism

The acceleration of tourism industry those last years and its contrasted impact on the populations and visited territories brings more and more tourism actors to think about the issues and challenges of tourism nowadays. Threat or opportunity for the many local heritages on this planet ? What solutions to maximize the positive impact of tourism on the local heritage ?

Impact of tourism on cultural and environmental heritage

For some people, tourism, whose economic activity represents over than 10% of the global GDP, is an effective mean for development ; for others, the results are much less positive on local communities’ lives and for the conservation of biodiversity.

Exemple de biodiversitéSocioeconomic and environmental damages and imbalances created by mass tourism are unfortunatly not to be proven anymore. The exponential increase of the number of tourists threats the integrity of some exceptional cultural sites, with not less than 48 goods registered on the list of the UNESCO World Heritage. To mention only two of them, the Machu Picchu in Peru whom visits have been multiplied by 10 [1] in 10 years, and the “Forbidden City” in Beinjing that has 15 millions visitors, increasing of 10% every year [2]..

On a environmental level, fragile and coveted natural areas also pay a heavy price due to tourism industrialisation.

The destinations with the most extraordinary natural wealth, so over 50% of the Southern countries with the most attractive biodiversity, receive between 1 and 2 millions of the international tourists per year. [3]

Knowing that 60% of the global ecosystems are now damaged by human activity and over 16 000 species of animals and plants are classified as endangered creatures, it becomes urgent to react and better lead tourism practices in order to deal with environmental drifts such as global warming.

It means minimizing the footprint of tourism on the environment already too harmed by humans and, whose consequences could be disastrous not only for the tourism sector, but also and above, for humans.

On the other side, it is impossible to deny that tourism is a major vector for global growth and acts as a motor for social and economic development. In this sense, it is a valuable opportunity to redistribute wealth of the so called developed countries to the poorest populations and thus contribute to the realisation of the Millenium Development Goals of the United Nations. It allows also to raise travellers’ awareness on the values and the multiple wealth of the visited territories and encourage the cultural and natural heritage protection for and by the local populations.

Well managed and mastered, the development of the touristic sector is therefor an astounding opportunity for a more sustainable development, especially on the local economy point of view, and can contribute to poverty reduction, and even lead to a more social welfare, and of course to the cultural heritage preservation and safeguarding biodiversity.

The challenge lies on a better ballance between tourism development and preservation of cultural and natural diversity proper to each destination.

Territorial tourism management has a major role in achieving this balance. Indeed, the natural heritage as well as cultural heritage of a site is the best attraction of a destination. Thenceforth, the tourism actors couldn’t simply welcome, inform and promote, but alse would have to settle a real cultural heritage development and safeguarding biodiversity strategy, two fundamental attractiveness factors .

The first doesn’t only include museums and historical monuments but also include what is called the “living heritage” or “intangible cultural heritage” [4] : art of living, gastronomy, traditions, know-hows, oral or corporal expressions, social practices,… Promote this heritage means maintaining the cultural diversity and promoting intercultural dialogue in a context of a global increasing standardization. Repas à La Borderie de la Marchaizière

As for the natural heritage, it obviously is the result of the nature activity, with the notion of “living” and biodiversity, but also as a part of the landscape, so altered by humans and partially integrated as an element of the historical and cultural heritage [5].Massif des grands Tsingy, patrimoine naturel exceptionnelà Madagascar

How to ensure a more equitable relationship between visitors and visited, for a win-win tourism ?

The challenge of tourism is to protect this heritage and raise awareness from all the stakeholders to the sustainable development issues, while developping tourism attraction and raising the satisfaction and loyalty of the visitors.

For several years now, we have a will more and more important from the tourism actors and citizens to take part and contribute to a tourism more respectful towards humans, cultures and environment.

A real awareness has taken place from some commited “producers” on the importance of promoting cultural and environmental heritage, through the sustainable development prism and not only anymore profitability. In France and elsewhere, new forms of tourism are gradually emerging, to respect and preserve cultural and natural heritage on sites. On the user side, even if more and more travellers Report feeling concerned (one French out of two says he is willing to combine citizenship and holidays [6]), it seems that the path to a more virtuous tourism will be a long term process. The terms “responsible tourism”, “sustainable”, “equitable” or “solidarity” are not enough to bring visitors, more and more suspicious on the greenwashing practices and other decoys.

From a consumer mentality to a contribution mentality, so that tourist’s interest is also the citizen’s interest, and vice versa

However, it does exist a real demand from the travellers conviced by the necessity of changing behavior and limit their impact towards nature and communities that welcome them.

The approach is however sustainable only if they can see key assets for their holidays : beyond the quality of service, the main expactations of the travellers remain to live an unic and authentic experience.  Explore an especially rich and well preserved hertitage sush as the city of Carcassonne, or set off on an adventure to climb the snowy roof of Africa… travellers are mainly attracted by the treasures and wonders that the world has to offer.

The primary purpose of the trip must not be sacrificed by the only citizen or green commitment. And indeed, Et effectivement, among all committed institutions that the HopAmbassadors have seen during different HopTour, in France or in Latin America, it is those who are communicating on the customer benefit generated by their commitment that attract most travellers.

La joie de vivre

What concrete solutions ? Tourism, a fundamental tool for cultural and natural heritage preservation

Many examples show the promote natural and cultural heritage of a destination, not only helps to ensure its durability, but also brings new customers and create customer loyalty :

And some HopSolutions to (re)discover on our website :

  • Feed birds during the colds : observation of biodiversity and wildlige protection
  • Refuge LPO : first network of ecological gardens in France
  • Butterfly sanctuary: key element of biodiversity, low space requirement, easy to maintain
  • Educational farm : visitors’ autonomy, discovery of local heritage, potential additional income
  • Educational garden : sensibilisation ludique,  activité pour toute la famille
  • The storyteller stick : innovation, entertaining audioguide, activity for the whole family

Written by Capucine Rosset [divider]Sources :

[pictures credits : Liliane Clément Photography – Madagascar 2015]

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