Cultural Tourism: Prodigy, or problem child?

A version of this article – which explores the sustainability of Cultural Tourism, its benefits and risks for Business, the Arts, Society and the Environment – first appeared in Artworks Journal, 3 December, 2013.

HI-LIGHTS by Martin Warden, LUMIERE 2011, produced by Artichoke in Durham. Photo Matthew Andrews.

HI-LIGHTS, Martin Warden, LUMIERE 2011 Durham, produced by Artichoke. Photo: Matthew Andrews.

Tourists are money, as the Sex Pistols once said. According to the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), just over one billion international tourists, together with almost six billion domestic, pay the wages of one in every 11 workers worldwide and pick up the tab for US$1.3 trillion in global exports. The numbers are not just big, but getting bigger: From a starting point of a mere 25 million international tourists enjoying post-War travel back in 1950, the forecast for 2030 is 1.8 billion, some 72 times that original figure.

Culture and the Arts are both drivers and beneficiaries of this wanderlust boom. Visual, performing and culinary arts are key players in the sustainable development of cultural tourism and, as tourists, culture vultures come in many forms – ranging from opera-lovers and theatregoers, to gastronomes, history buffs, ‘ethno-freaks’ and ‘archi-trekkers’. The one thing they have in common is the potential to impact the local economy, environment and community, for good or ill.
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