Perspectives on Cultural Tourism by chefseanmd

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Source: Richards, G. (2003) What is Cultural Tourism? In van Maaren, A. (ed.)                                 .
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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 (e.g. Bywater, 1993), but are rarely backed up with empirical

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 (Richards 1996; 2001) 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.

It is difficult to assess whether an optimistic or a pessimistic view of cultural tourism is
correct, simply because we know remarkably little about it. Who are the cultural
tourists? What are their motivations? Where do they go? These essential questions are
still very difficult to answer, which indicates that the market is still not very well
understood. One of the key reasons for the lack of information on the cultural tourism
market is the fact that a consistent definition of cultural tourism does not exist.
Individual studies adopt differing definitions, which makes them difficult to compare.
Discussions of the definition of cultural tourism may seem academic, but the question
of definition can be crucial. Unless we know who the cultural tourists are, or how many
there are, how can we market cultural tourism effectively or plan for the management of
cultural tourism?
This paper outlines the discussion surrounding the definition of cultural tourism and
also asks the question whether the term ’cultural tourism’ is still appropriate to cover
the wide variety of activities that now tend to be included under this broad umbrella.
Before moving onto the question of definition, however, it is important to consider why
cultural tourism has grown in recent decades, because the way in which cultural
tourism has developed has arguably coloured the question of definition.


Discussions about the growth of cultural tourism have ranged from the highly
theoretical to extremely practical approaches. First I want to outline one of the most
important theoretical issues, namely the development of culture and tourism in
(post)modern societies.

In theoretical terms, the relationship between tourism and culture illustrates that the
current cultural tourism market represents the latest phase in a long standing process
of convergence between culture and tourism. In the past, culture and tourism were
seen as being separate spheres of social practice, undertaken by distinct social groups
at specific times. As John Urry (1995) has noted, however, the barriers between culture
and tourism are disappearing as a result of two parallel processes:

1) The culturisation of society

Everyday life is increasingly characterised by a de-differentiation of previously distinct
social and cultural spheres, with the emergence of an economy of signs, the
convergence of ‘high’ and ‘low’ culture, ‘art’ and ‘life’. Objects and people have become
increasingly mobile, and boundaries between previously distinct cultures are
increasingly being eliminated.

2) The culturisation of tourist practices

Tourism has attained a greater cultural content, most obviously through the growth of
cultural tourism, but also through the increasing significance of signs in the production
of tourist sites. Not only do tourists consume a wide range of signs during their
holidays, but the signs attached to travel are increasingly produced and circulated by
the cultural industries.

The production and consumption of signs and symbols obviously forms an important
part of both of these processes of the culturisation of tourism. We might therefore be
                                                                way          to
able to argue that tourism itself has become a culture, or a ' of life' quote the
most frequent usage of the term. If tourism, like other sectors of social life, is becoming
more cultural and is itself becoming a form of culture, is it still possible to talk about a
distinct form of '                ?
                  cultural tourism' One might argue that all tourism is cultural - and in
fact some of the definitions presented later imply this is the case. If so, it is little wonder
that cultural tourism appears to have grown.

However, the number of people actually visiting cultural attractions has also grown,
indicating a very practical outcome of the culturisation of society. According to the
European Heritage Group, attendance at museums, historical monuments and
archaeological sites has doubled between 1977 and 1997 (European Commission,
1998). Other estimates indicate that between 1982 and 1995, the attendance at
museums and monuments across Europe grew by about 25% (Richards, 1996).
This growth in cultural tourism can be explained in terms of both demand side and
supply side factors.
In terms of demand, one of the most important arguments advanced is that there is an
increased interest in culture in society as a whole. This obviously links to the idea of the
culturisation of society. However, recent research on cultural tourism in the
Netherlands has tended to suggest that tourists are not particularly any more interested
in culture than they were in the past. De Haan (1997) argues that more tourists are
visiting cultural attractions today simply because there are more tourists, not because
tourists in general are any more ’culturally interested’.

Perhaps a more convincing argument is that levels of ’cultural capital’ or cultural
competence have increased in society as education levels have risen. The number of
people entering higher education in Europe is about three times as high today as it
was 30 years ago. This means that more people are in a position to interpret and
appreciate the culture presented by ’high’ cultural attractions such as museums,
theatres or the opera. This effect has been demonstrated very clearly for attendance at
museums in France, the UK and the Netherlands. It seems therefore that cultural
tourists do not necessarily consider themselves more interested in culture, but they are
consuming more high culture as their capacity to interpret it grows.

Another major cultural trend that has been important in the growth of the heritage
industry has been the growth of nostalgia. The increasing pace of life and the feeling of
disorientation and loss associated with modernity has ensured that the preservation of
the past has become big business. Membership of organizations dedicated to heritage
preservation has grown considerably in recent decades. The growth of nostalgia is also
related to the aging population in Europe and elsewhere. Many commentators have
argued that as people get older, their feelings of nostalgia increase, and they are more
likely to visit heritage attractions related to their own past.

It seems that the combination of nostalgia for the past, the need to reassert national
and local identities and the perceived economic benefits of cultural development have
had a dramatic effect on the supply of cultural attractions.

In addition to the demand factors driving cultural tourism growth, there have been a
number of important drivers that related to the supply of cultural attractions. Tourism in
general and cultural tourism in particular have come to be seen as major sources of
jobs and income. In addition, cultural tourism is widely viewed as a growth market, and
this has stimulated many regions and countries to promote cultural tourism as an
economic development tool.

One reason why cultural tourism in particular is a useful development tool for so many
regions is the fact that every place has culture it can develop - unlike the development
of beach tourism, which requires at least a coastline. The plentiful supply of cultural
objects can also create major funding problems relating to the upkeep of historic
structures and cultural venues. The solution to the funding problem may also be seen
in the development of cultural tourism.

At the EU level, culture is viewed as an essential resource that not only provides work
but which can also develop cultural harmony within the European Union. Cultural
tourism and cultural attractions have also become central to much of the regional
economic development activity financed by the European Commission.

One of the consequences of increasing public sector intervention in cultural tourism
has been a vastly increased supply of cultural attractions in recent years. In Europe, for
example, the number of cultural attractions is estimated to have grown by over 100% in
the past 20 years, actually outstripping the growth of demand. Richards (2001) has
therefore argued that the growth of cultural tourism may actually be more supply driven
than it is stimulated by a growth in demand for culture. This is a point which also
becomes important from the point of view of defining cultural tourism. Many definitions
of cultural tourism, as we shall see, have tended to emphasise its broad scope or the
number of cultural tourists, rather than concentrating on the ’essence’ of the cultural
tourism experience.


What is cultural tourism? As McKercher and Du Cros (2002:3) observe: ’this seemingly
simple question is actually very difficult to answer because there are almost as many
definitions.... of cultural tourism as there are cultural tourists’. The reason for this
complex situation is relatively simple, however - the definition of culture itself is so
difficult. ’Culture’ was labelled by Raymond Williams (1983) as one of the most
complicated words in the English language, and it has just as much variation in
interpretation in most other languages as well. When the discussion spreads across
national (or linguistic) boundaries, the question becomes still more complex. Consider
for a moment whether the Dutch word ’erfgoed’ means the same as the English
’heritage’. In principle these cover the same concept of things inherited from the past,
but the English usage of the term is far broader, and also applies to intangible aspects
of culture, such as customs or national identity. This difference explains why ’cultural
tourism’ has in the past been largely associated with history (cultuurhistorisch toerisme)
in the Netherlands.

The problem of defining culture has been accentuated in recent years by the additional
meanings and functions attributed to ‘culture’ as a result of the democratization of
culture and the increasing convergence of culture and everyday life. The growth of
culture is one reason for the colourful assortment of terms that have arisen in the
literature and in policy statements in recent years. Cultural tourism, heritage tourism,
arts tourism, ethnic tourism and a host of other terms seem to be almost
interchangeable in their usage, but it is rarely clear whether people are talking about
the same thing. In fact, a recent seminar staged by the Scottish Tourist Board to
discuss the development of a new cultural tourism policy was entitled '  Culture and
tourism: are we speaking the same language?'

The broad nature of the cultural tourism phenomenon has also tended to generate a
wide range of different definitions. Most of these definitions have been formulated for a
specific purpose, and therefore tend to address only one major aspect of cultural
tourism. In their review of definitions, McKercher and Du Cros identified four different
types of cultural tourism definitions: tourism derived definitions, motivational definitions,
experiential or aspirational definitions and operational definitions.

In very simple terms, these different approaches can be placed at opposite ends of two
axes (figure 1). The experiential definitions say something about the nature of the
cultural tourism experience, and essentially they are trying to understand the nature of
cultural tourism in conceptual terms - what does it actually mean? The operational
definitions concentrate on identifying cultural tourists, usually in order to measure the
scale or scope of cultural tourism activity. The first definitional axis could therefore be
termed the measurement-meaning axis. The tourism derived definitions essentially look
at cultural tourism from the perspective of the tourism industry or the tourism system.
Cultural tourism is simply one more market segment that utilises the infrastructure of
the tourist industry. In contrast, motivational definitions usually begin with the tourists
themselves and their reasons for travel. These definitions therefore deal with the
second '                  ,
          tourism-tourist'or supply-demand axis.
The first axis is differentiated in terms of purpose. What are we trying to achieve by
defining cultural tourism - do we want to understand the nature of cultural tourism and
its meaning for the cultural tourists, or are we simply interested in counting how many
people participate? What separates the definitions along the supply-demand axis is the
viewpoint adopted - are we interested in knowing about the market for the tourism
industry, or are we interested in knowing why the demand exists?

Structuring the different definitional approaches in this way makes clear why no single
definition of cultural tourism is likely to be adopted. Which definition is appropriate
depends on our perspective and our objectives. One interesting point that this analysis
also makes is that there is very rarely a cultural perspective on cultural tourism. Either
cultural institutions do not consider it worthwhile defining cultural tourists, or perhaps
for them it is not a problem of definition? Cultural tourists are after all for most cultural
institutions simply those tourists that choose to visit them.

If we look at some of the actual definitions used in studies of cultural tourism, we can
appreciate some of the differences between the approaches and the problems these


Conceptual definitions are concerned with the nature of the cultural tourism
phenomenon, and in particular tend to concentrate on what motivates the tourist to visit
cultural attractions.

For example, McIntosh and Goeldner (1986) consider cultural tourism as comprising
"all aspects of travel, whereby travellers learn about the history and heritage of others
or about their contemporary ways of life or thought". In other words, cultural tourists are
motivated to learn about the products and processes of other cultures. The ’wide
definition’ of cultural tourism adopted by the World Tourism Organisation (WTO)
includes "all movements of persons, ..... because they satisfy the human need for
diversity, tending to raise the cultural level of the individual and giving rise to new
knowledge, experience and encounters". This definition again emphasises the learning
aspect of cultural tourism, which is supposed to contribute to personal development,
but the fact that all tourism could fall under this definition of cultural tourism makes it so
wide as to be useless for the purpose of identifying, measuring or managing the
phenomenon. A similar approach has been taken by ICOMOS in its Cultural Tourism
Charter, which actually widened its definition over time. Originally defining cultural
tourism as ’ that form of tourism whose object is, among other aims, the discovery of
monuments and sites’ by 1999 the definition included ’any form of tourism to another
place (that) involves the visitor experiencing all of the "cultural" aspects about that
place, its contemporary lifestyles, food, topography, environment, towns and villages,
just as much as its historic sites and cultural performances’.

In order to try and clarify the meaning of cultural tourism, a conceptual definition was
proposed by Richards (1996), based on the way in which tourists consume culture.
According to Littrell (1997), culture can be viewed as comprising what people think
(attitudes, beliefs, ideas and values), what people do (normative behaviour patterns, or
way of life) and what people make (artworks, artefacts, cultural products). Culture is
therefore composed of processes (the ideas and way of life of people) and the products
of those processes (buildings, artefacts, art, customs, ‘atmosphere’). Looking at culture
in this way, cultural tourism is not just about visiting sites and monuments, which has
tended to be the ‘traditional’ view of cultural tourism, but it also involves consuming the
way of life of the areas visited. Both of these activities involve the collection of new
knowledge and experiences. Cultural tourism can therefore be 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’ (Richards, 1996). According to this conceptual definition, cultural tourism covers
not just the consumption of the cultural products of the past, but also of contemporary
culture or the ‘way of life’ of a people or region. Cultural tourism can therefore be seen
as covering both ‘heritage tourism’ (related to artefacts of the past) and ‘arts tourism’
(related to contemporary cultural production).

The conceptual definition proposed by ATLAS was therefore:

‘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’.

There has been some discussion subsequently about the utility of this definition. For
example, Alzua HW DO. (1998:3) have argued that because ‘”intention” is a complex
concept to measure’ that it would be better to use a scale of tourist motivations, such
as that incorporated in Silberberg’s (1995) definition ‘visits by persons from outside the
host community motivated wholly or in part by interest in the historical artistic, scientific
or lifestyle/heritage offerings of a community, region, group or institution’. However, as
our research has shown, it would be hard to find a tourist who is not interested at least
in part in some aspect of the culture of the destination they are visiting. Similarly, some
people have suggested that cultural '         are
                                        needs' difficult to measure, and than one
should talk about ' wants'  and '        .
                                 desires'This approach fits better with postmodern
approaches to consumption, but the problem is that every cultural need (such as the
need to learn) can be expressed in thousands of individual wants and desires
associated with a basic cultural need. The need to learn, for example, may be
expressed in a very formal sense, such as taking a course on art history, or very
informally, through browsing the internet or buying a book in a museum shop.


Measurement approaches tend to be more pragmatic than philosophical, because they
are concerned with limiting the practical problems of measuring or evaluating cultural
tourism. So for example the WTO (1985) also formulated a '                             of
                                                                   narrow definition' cultural
tourism which includes "movements of persons for essentially cultural motivations such
as study tours, performing arts and cultural tours, travel to festivals and other cultural
events, visits to sites and monuments, travel to study nature, folklore or art, and
pilgrimages". The essential difference between the WTO '        wide definition'  and this
'                   is
 narrow definition' that by monitoring the purpose of travel among tourists it is
possible to separate the '  cultural tourists' from other visitors. This definition is therefore
the basis of the WTO' estimate that 37% of global tourism is cultural tourism.
However, the definition makes no distinction between levels of motivation, so in fact it
includes all visitors to cultural attractions, since there is no attempt to define the extent
of 'essentially cultural motivations'  mentioned in the definition.

The problem of the extent of the cultural motivation of tourists was recognised in the
Irish Tourist Board' (1988) study of cultural tourism in Europe. The ITB definition is
"Cultural tourism is travel undertaken with the intention, wholly or partly, of increasing
     s                          s
one' appreciation of Europe' cultural resources" . This definition allows one to
distinguish between different types of cultural tourists, and the ITB identified two groups
'general cultural tourists'who visited cultural attractions but were not directly motivated
by culture, and 'specific cultural tourists'who were considered to have a more specific
cultural motivation for visiting certain cultural attractions. This idea is also taken up by
the consultancy LORD inc in their definition: "Visits by persons from outside the host
community motivated wholly or in part by interest in the historical, artistic, scientific or
lifestyle / heritage offerings of a community, region, group or institution."

The ’technical definition’ of cultural tourism proposed by ATLAS places motivation
centrally as the distinguishing feature of cultural tourists, but makes no specific mention
of the degree of motivation:

‘All movements of persons to specific cultural attractions, such as heritage sites, artistic
and cultural manifestations, arts and drama outside their normal place of residence’.


Resource based definitions tend to start from the premise that all people visiting
cultural attractions are cultural tourists, so cultural tourism can be understood through a
consideration of the resources involved. In particular these definitions tend to
emphasise the range of different types of cultural attractions. This has the advantage of
illustrating the scope and diversity of the cultural tourism product, but often so many
different types of attractions are lumped together that it is still difficult to say what
cultural tourism is.

A typical example comes from ECTARC (1989), who define the resources involved in
cultural tourism as:

a) archaeological sites and museums
b) architecture (ruins, famous buildings, whole towns)
c) art, sculpture, crafts, galleries, festivals, events
d) music and dance (classical, folk, contemporary)
e) drama (theatre, films, dramatists)
f) language and literature study, tours, events
g) religious festivals, pilgrimages
i) complete (folk or primitive) cultures and sub-cultures.

A similar approach is adopted by Munsters (1996) who classifies a wide range of
cultural tourism attractions in the Netherlands and Belgium in the following way:

1 Attractions
a) Monuments
b) Museums
c) Routes
d) Theme parks
2 Events
a) Cultural-historic events
b) Art events
c) Events and Attractions

Munster' typology is unusual for including '             as
                                             theme parks' cultural attractions, the
                          Mini         in
example he gives being ' Europe' Brussels, which he argues can be seen as an
architectural park. Although this may seem only vaguely '        ,
                                                         cultural'the inclusion of an
increasing number of cultural elements in modern theme parks tends to blur the
boundaries between theme parks and heritage attractions, increasing the problems of
creating a product-based definition of cultural tourism.

Product based definitions are also common among tourist boards and cultural
organisations. The Scottish Tourist Board and Scottish Arts Council offered: "Realising
the tourism potential of Scotland’s performing, visual and literary arts (traditional and
contemporary), language, museums, heritage, crafts, architecture, design, film and
broadcasting". The Wales Tourist Board, which is currently working on a cultural
tourism strategy of its own, has drawn heavily on this description, while adding "historic
landscapes and gardens" and stressing professional and amateur arts. A similar
approach is adopted in the Toerdata report on 1RRUG 1HGHUODQG
&RQVXPHQWHQRQGHU]RHN 7RHULVPH . In this study cultural tourists are considered

to be those people who indicate they are motivated to visit the region by at least one of
the three following elements: rural landscape (agrarisch landschap); historic town
(historisch stadje) or museums (musea/bezienswaardigheden).

One of the problems with these types of definition is that the categories of ’cultural
attractions’ are not fixed and are becoming increasingly difficult to define as purely
’cultural’ or ’entertainment’ based, for example. Richards (2001) has therefore
suggested that cultural attractions might better be viewed as a dynamic field of
attractions rather than static categories.

In figure 2, the field of cultural attractions is divided into four quadrants by the two
dimensions of ’cultural content’ (ranging from culture as product to culture as process,
as outlined above) and ’cultural purpose’, ranging from educational uses of culture to
culture as the basis of entertainment. Quadrant 1 contains the major ‘traditional’
cultural attractions based largely on heritage and other cultural products of the past –
museums, monuments and galleries. Quadrant 2 features more contemporary types of
attractions based on cultural processes, such as language courses and art exhibitions.
On the right hand side of the diagram are '     entertainment'   based attractions orientated
more towards the needs of the cultural audience than preserving cultural resources. In
the top left quadrant are grouped attractions related to entertainment – arts festivals
and performances. Theme parks arguably fall across the boundary between quadrant 3
and quadrant 4, because they not only present contemporary entertainment but also
exploit historical resources, such as historical themes and attractions. Quadrant 4
contains a number of attraction types, including heritage centres and folklore festivals,
which mix educational and entertainment elements based on historical resources.

The dynamic nature of the cultural field outlined in figure 2 suggests that it is
increasingly difficult to base definitions of cultural tourism purely on types of attraction.
What is today widely accepted as a museum may tomorrow re-invent itself as a '         theme
park'or vice versa. This postmodern fluidity of definition is a problem discussed in
more detail at the end of this article.


Tourist based definitions also generally start with the product or resource, but they
concentrate on the purpose of visit of the tourists themselves.

The definitions adopted by most tourist boards are of this type, usually defining cultural
tourists by purpose of visit rather than by motivation. So for example in New England
cultural tourists are those visitors whose primary purpose for being in New England is
to visit a cultural event or attraction. The rationale for this type of definition is that
cultural tourists can then be identified easily by reference to the trip data collected by
most tourist boards. However, it should be recognised that '                         is
                                                                  purpose of visit' usually
identified with reference to fairly general categories (such as leisure, business or
visiting friends and family) and that travelling to visit a cultural attraction does not
always mean that the visitor is culturally motivated. Consider the fact, for example, that
only 20% of the tourists interviewed for the ATLAS Cultural Tourism Survey over the
past 10 at cultural attractions consider themselves to be '                      .
                                                               cultural tourists'Most
consider their cultural consumption to be one part of a general trip for other purposes,
such as a ’city trip’.

A definition of ‘arts tourism’ was taken for figures emerging from the United Kingdom
Tourism Survey on cultural visits by domestic tourists. The definition of arts tourism is
where the main purpose of a trip is to attend a performing arts event (including the
cinema) or to visit a museum, gallery or heritage attraction. The data indicate that ‘arts
tourism’ accounted for 1.7% of all domestic holidays and 3% of all holiday expenditure
in the UK in 1996. In US research on cultural visitors, for example, studies of ‘cultural
tourists’ include all those visiting museums, monuments, historic sites and cultural
performances and events (Travel Industry Association, 1997).

looking at the definitions as a whole, one can see that there are major differences in
terms of the scope of the definitions of all types. In broad terms, definitions either seek
to be fairly broad and inclusive, covering all possible forms of cultural tourism, or they
seek to narrow the definition in order to identify the '         of
                                                        essence' cultural tourism.


It is clear from the preceding discussion of cultural tourism definitions that it is
extremely difficult to find one single definition that will cover all aspects of cultural
tourism. This is why both the World Tourism Organisation and ATLAS developed two
different definitions of the concept. Other studies have tried to avoid the problem of
definition in a different way, by constructing typologies that attempt to describe the
different types of cultural tourists. Although a typology does not provide a definition per
se, it can help to visualise the scope of the phenomenon.

Most typologies are based on the degree of cultural motivation of tourists, usually
ranging from those with a fairly general or superficial interest in culture to those with a
very specific and/or strong interest in culture. For example, an early typology was
produced in the Irish Tourist Board Study mentioned above, which split tourists into
'specific'and ' general' cultural tourists. This concept was later operationalised in the
ATLAS research, that distinguished between the two groups on basis of their self-
designation as cultural tourists and their stated level of interest in a specific cultural
attraction. Survey data indicated that about 9% of all tourists could be seen as
'specific'cultural tourists, with a further 10-15% being 'general'  cultural tourists,
depending on the destination. Research has also indicated that the number of specific
cultural tourists has tended to remain fairly constant over the years, while most of the
growth in the cultural tourism market is coming from general cultural tourists.

Other typologies have tried to produce more detailed distinctions. For example,
Bywater (1993) distinguished between visitors who were culturally interested, culturally
motivated and culturally inspired. Culturally interested tourists are those who have a
fairly general interest in culture and will consume cultural attractions casually as part of
a holiday rather than consciously planning to do so. Culturally motivated tourists are
those who consume culture as a major part of their holiday experience, but who are not
choosing their destination on the basis of specific cultural experiences. Culturally
inspired tourists are those who see culture as the main goal of their holiday and who
will travel long distances to collect cultural experiences.

A more complex typology was proposed by McKercher and Du Cros, who argued that
not only the importance of culture in the decision to travel should be taken into account
in constructing a typology, but that the ' depth of experience'being sought by the tourist
was also important. Based on this idea they produced a two-dimensional typology
which divides cultural tourists into five groups (figure 3):
1) The purposeful cultural tourist - cultural tourism is the primary motive for visiting a
   destination and the tourist has a very deep cultural experience.
2) The sightseeing cultural tourist - cultural tourism is a primary reason for visiting a
   destination, but the experience is more shallow.
3) The serendipitous cultural tourist - a tourist who does not travel for cultural tourism
   reasons, but who, after participating, ends up having a deep cultural tourism
4) The casual cultural tourist - cultural tourism is a weak motive for travel and the
   resulting experience is shallow.
5) The incidental cultural tourist - this tourist does not travel for cultural tourism
   reasons but nonetheless participates in some activities and has shallow

Field research in Hong Kong indicated that most tourists have cultural motivations for
travel, but are not usually looking for ’deep’ cultural experiences (figure 4). The largest
groups in the typology are therefore the sightseeing cultural tourist (31%) the incidental
cultural tourist (28%) and the casual cultural tourist (24%). In contrast the purposeful
cultural tourist (12%) and the serendipitous cultural tourist (6%) were far less common.


The wide variety of definitions of cultural tourism points to the problem of attempting to
capture the meaning of cultural tourism in a single phrase. The truth is that not only has
cultural tourism expanded as an activity, but the concept of culture itself has also
grown. In the past, culture was considered to mean ’high’ culture, such as museums
and concert halls, but increasingly the cultural tourism product is also seen as
encompassing ’popular’ culture as well. In this context the division between high and
popular culture begins to lose its meaning. Consider for a moment the museums run by
football clubs such as FC Barcelona and Ajax. These are called museums, but they
focus heavily on football as popular culture, and they are successful in attracting
tourists. Should these be considered ’cultural’ attractions, and therefore their visitors be
seen as ’cultural tourists’?

In my opinion the term ’cultural tourism’ is beginning to lose its meaning as a definition
of a clearly identifiable activity or group of consumers. The expansion of the concept of
culture makes a simple conflation of ’tourism’ and ’culture’ an unwieldy concept.

 A big concept however attracts much attention, and there is a growth of intervention in
cultural tourism not just by tourist boards but also cultural institutions, heritage
organisations, local authorities, motoring organisations, the media, theme parks, hotels,
etc. A plethora of plans, projects, platforms product developments, discussion groups,
networks and policies are being developed around cultural tourism. A major problem is
that all of the organisations that concern themselves with cultural tourism seem to be
convinced that it is a new, growing market. In fact, cultural tourism has been around for
a very long time, and the core market of ’culturally inspired’ tourists is not growing as
fast as the number of projects developed for them. This leads to an increase in
competition between cultural attractions chasing the same cultural tourists. The
inidications are that the search for distinction and more fulfilling experiences on the part
of the cultural consumer means that cultural tourism growth is more likely to be found in
specific ’niche’ markets rather than the general cultural tourism market, which seems to
be fairly mature and highly competitive (see figure 5). The future seems to lie in
specialised areas such as arts tourism, architectural tourism, festival tourism, opera
tourism, gastronomic tourism and creative tourism (Dümke 2002, Hjalager and
Richards 2002).
There seems to be a strange divergence taking place between policy and practice in
cultural tourism. One the one hand, policy is becoming more integrated, with tourist
boards bringing organisations together from different cultural and tourism sectors to
form a ’cultural tourism product’. On the other hand the consumer seems increasingly
less likely to identify with the general label ’cultural tourist’, and increasingly more likely
to look for specialised cultural experiences which can meet very specific cultural wants
and needs.

This trend away from general to more individualised patterns of cultural consumption is
evident in (post)modern leisure market. People undertake an increasing diversity of
leisure activities in an increasingly short amount of leisure time. The development of
the ’zap’ culture has stimulated the emergence of the ’cultural omnivore’, who
consumes both high culture and popular culture with equal ease, shifting between
theme parks and museums as if they were interchangeable modules of leisure time.
Arguably what lies at the base of all these developments is the basic experience
hunger that characterises (post)modern societies (de Cauter 1995). Cut off from the
‘authentic’ experiences of the past and apparently unable to reach the same depth of
experience, we build our identities not so much on the pillars of modern society, such
as work, marriage or religion, but more on a series of unconnected individual
experiences. The lack of connection between experience and nature, the family,
spirituality or the development of the self is a lack that is keenly felt and is translated
into a constant hunger for new experiences which promise to provide those

Through these new patterns of consumption, people have been separated from a
cumulative form of experience (HUIDKUXQJ) and are increasingly reliant on individual
experiences (HUOHEQLV) for development of the life course (de Cauter 1995). This makes
it increasingly necessary for individuals to piece these discrete fragments of experience
together into a coherent story which contributes to their identity. In the past it was
enough to know that someone had a specific trade, and had undergone a training for
that trade to understand the cumulative experience they had. In postmodern societies
the individualisation of experience makes this easy identification of a life course and
sequential modes of experience obsolete.

The need to piece together a coherent life history partly explains the postmodern
concern with narrative. Narratives are important because of the uncertainty and
fragmentation of postmodern life. Narratives provide the means to link together
disparate experiences into a coherent whole – and perhaps more importantly, a
distinct, individualised whole. We all have our own individual narratives, which are
arguably of equal worth in the postmodern world. Of course, in this situation the power
relationship between the supplier of cultural experiences and the consumer also begins
to change. In the past we were used to the museum being the '      factory of meaning' ,
whose authority to produce cultural narratives was unchallenged by the visitor. These
days, the visitor is more likely to be seeking part of their own story when they visit a
museum - a piece of the puzzle which constructs their identity. The visitor will
increasingly decide which parts of the cultural offer they want to consume and which
are irrelevant for them.

Suppliers of leisure experiences have reacted to the development of this (UOHEQLVNXOWXU
by combining different types of cultural experiences into their products. Museums
become a mixture of the traditional culture presented in display cases, new media
represented by interactive displays and websites, catering in the obligatory cafe and/or
restaurant and shopping in the inevitable '               .
                                           museum shop'These new leisure products
provide more apparent choice for the consumer, in the hope that at least one of the
elements will appeal to all potential visitors. The problem is that as these products
diversify, they in fact become more alike - the museum becomes less distinguishable
from the theme park and both become more like IKEA. Distinguishing cultural
attractions through their products is no longer as simple as it used to be. This is one
reason why cultural attractions are turning to narrative and theming to add power to the
basic product.

As Gottdiener (1997) has suggested, the desire for meaning on the part of the
consumer is met increasingly by the creation of themed environments. Such theming is
designed to appeal to an extremely wide audience, containing sufficient ’cultural cues’
so that every visitor can recognise something that links with their own cultural needs.
The basis of competition between commercial suppliers, and implicitly between cultural
organisations as well, has therefore become symbolic differentiation and thematic

In this new competitive environment, the narrative provides a link between the culture
being presented and the culture of the visitor. The consumer takes selected pieces of
the experiences created for them and constructs their own narrative on which they can
base their identity. This idea is not just being taken up by commercial suppliers such as
Disney, but is also increasingly being used to valorize ’high’ cultural or heritage

One example of the development of narrative from local identities is the Identity Factory
Southeast (,GHQWLWHLWVIDEULHN =XLG2RVW: IDZO) in Kempenland region of the southern
Netherlands. The IDZO is not a traditional museum where ’authorised’ versions of
culture are produced. The project attempts to present culture as a series of ‘cultural
biographies’ based on the life stories of local people, which can then be creatively used
and interpreted by the visitor. The system is flexible thanks to new technology. The
visitor can scan through the biographies in the way that fits their own vision of the
world, and therefore create their own interpretation, or story, based on local culture.
The importance of allowing visitors to construct their own narratives is emphasised by
the important role played by ‘authenticity’ in tourism consumption. Our research
indicates that the need for authentic experiences is high among a broad group of
tourists, but particularly among cultural tourists. By allowing tourists to work creatively
with cultural biographies and to accumulate their own views of local culture, the
perceived authenticity of the tourism product can be increased. Tourists who have the
feeling that they are being presented with a ‘staged’ version of local culture will soon
become dissatisfied. Tourists who can choose to construct their own versions of local
identity become themselves involved in the staging process, which therefore slips into
the background.

One advantage of using such biographies is that they overlap in time and space, giving
discrete attractions the chance to link together in new ways. For example, the
biography gives attractions the potential to link together a storyline that may contain a
wide variety of different types of objects or attractions. This contrasts with the
traditional classificatory strategy of grouping objects of similar types (e.g. castles,
historic houses or art museums). Such an approach seems more attune to the modern
zap culture than the staid classificatory approaches taken by many cultural institutions
at present.


Modern cultural tourism is an apparent paradox. It is a form of tourism that has become
so popular that everybody seems familiar with it and many people are keen to develop
it. But our understanding of the concept has not kept pace with its growth. The concept
of cultural tourism is still fairly vague, and many different definitions of term are in

Part of the problem lies in the fact that culture is itself so difficult to define, but the
different approaches to cultural tourism have tended to add to the confusion. Different
definitions have been developed for different purposes, whether to understand,
measure or identify cultural tourism. The difficulty of designing one simple definition
which cover the whole concept is underlined by the fact that some organisations have
opted for multiple definitions, while many academics have developed typologies which
describe the different types of cultural tourists instead of a clear definition.

In the increasingly complicated postmodern consumer landscape, definition will
become even more difficult, because fixed categories such as ’museum’, ’monument’ or
’theme park’ will become increasingly untenable. It is little wonder that many
practitioners question the wisdom of having a definition at all. In my view, however, it
remains important to adopt a definition of cultural tourism. Without a consistent
definition it is difficult to communicate to others what is meant by cultural tourism, and
making policy or management plans becomes far more difficult. Without a definition,
marketing cultural tourism becomes impossible. The most practical approach,
therefore, seems to be to choose the definition that is most suited to the task at hand.
If understanding cultural tourism is the main aim, a conceptual definition would seem
most appropriate. If counting cultural tourists is most important then a measurement
approach should be adopted.

It remains curious, however, that the one viewpoint that is obviously missing from
current definitions of cultural tourism is that of culture. Rather than taking culture for
granted in the process of definition, perhaps culture should be placed at the centre of
the picture. In this way, the current friction between the demands of the culture of
tourism and the needs of the cultural object of tourism could be avoided.

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