Sustainable Heritage Tourism

About This Group

This interest group seeks to increase the participation of cultural practitioners and heritage­‐based firms by offering better access to the tourism market for products that meet locally-‐approved standards of authenticity and sustainability. It will also benefit domestic and international visitors by making available a wider variety of heritage products and services that embody the distinctive culture and traditions of every destination in the region. 

Goals and Activities

The activities of this interest group are focused on achieving the goal of balancing economic development, creative transmission of local traditions and cultural expressions, and environmental sustainability.

Special topics to be discussed and implemented include elicitation of local cultural values as basis for development of products and services for the tourist market; business mentoring for traditional craft and cultural practitioners; development and dissemination of endorsement programmes sponsored by National Trusts or other cultural organizations; and innovative ideas for making heritage-related products and services attractive to local residents as well as international visitors.

The Challenge

As documented in a 2013 Regional Needs Assessment, tourism can sometimes be a mixed blessing to the safeguarding of cultural heritage and traditional knowledge in the Caribbean region. Some of the major heritage tourism challenges include:

  • Concentration of tourism in resorts and densely settled areas, bypassing the landmarks and culture of rural areas and large segments of the population. 
  • “Generic” souvenirs and performances that do not adequately nor respectfully represent the diversity of local crafts, foods, artistic expression, and local knowledge—and often rely on imported, mass-produced products or standardized excursions.
  • Restricted access to the tourism market for local practitioners, small businesses, and marginalized communities.
  • Loss of local traditions due to the effects of globalization and out-migration, contributing to a widening social gap between generations and a loss of local heritage practices.