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What is heritage tourism? 

Heritage tourism (also called cultural heritage tourism) is defined by the National Trust for Historic Preservation (NTHP) as traveling to experience the places, artifacts and activities that authentically represent the stories and people of the past, and may include cultural, historic, and natural resources.

 

Why is heritage tourism important?

In 2010, the travel and tourism industry directly contributed $759 billion to the U.S. economy, according to U.S. Travel Association. It is one of the country's largest employers, directly employing more than 7.4 million people with a payroll income of $188 billion and generating $118 billion in tax revenues for federal, state, and local governments. In 2013, the total Indiana tourism expenditures surpassed $10.3 billion, which was an increase of 5.2% and was three times faster than the total U.S. tourism growth. Indiana visitors contributed $7.9 billion to the state's gross domestic product, generated over $2.2 billion in tax receipts, and supported more than 187,000 jobs. In Elkhart County, where heritage tourism is embraced, the travel and tourism industry contributed over $431.9 million to the local economy.

 

Heritage tourism, a subset of all tourism, can be a powerful economic development tool. By using historic structures and landscapes to attract and serve travelers, it creates new jobs and businesses, increases tax revenues, and diversifies the local economy. Studies have consistently shown that heritage travelers stay longer in communities and spend more money than other kinds of travelers. They are also more likely to take part in a wide variety of activities compared to other travelers including such things as visiting state and national parks, participating in culinary experiences, visiting farmers markets, and enjoying unique dining experiences. Heritage tourism also helps preserve a community's unique character, which results in greater civic pride and a better quality of life.

 

How is heritage tourism developed?

For successful and sustainable heritage tourism development, the NTHP developed five guiding principles:

  1. Collaborate - identify partners that can help meet the goals of the project
     

  2. Find the fit - determine realistic types of heritage tourism that the community needs and can adequately support.
     

  3. Make sites and programs come alive - find ways to make visitor experiences exciting, engaging, and interactive; to attract visitors, the destination must be worth the effort to get there
     

  4. Focus on quality and authenticity - heritage tourists tend to be sophisticated visitors looking for unique and interesting experiences.
     

  5. Preserve and protect resources - a community's cultural, historic, and natural resources (such as buildings, special places, and landscapes) are valuable and often irreplaceable

Four steps for heritage tourism development:

  1. Assess the potential

    • Survey the community for help in identifying area sites, stories or resources that may be of interest to heritage travelers Identify cultural attractions that are already developed and open to the public.

    • Look for aspects of the community's cultural heritage that could be developed for tourism. This might include stories that could be interpreted through walking or driving tours, or enhancing or expanding an existing event. 

    • Consider how the community's cultural heritage resources may link thematically to other communities. This could include connecting stories of settlement, cultural traditions (such as music or foodways), architectural styles, or businesses. 
       

  2. Plan and organize in order to create a shared heritage tourism vision for the community. 

    • Why does the community want to develop heritage tourism? Some reasons could be to preserve cultural traditions, build up property values, and increase community pride. 

    • What are the goals for developing heritage tourism? Some examples could be to attract more visitors, create new jobs, and diversify the current economic/industry base.

    • Who does the community want to attract? Examples include general groups, special interest groups, seniors, students, families, couples, and individual travelers. 

    • Where does the community want to attract visitors from? The heritage tourism may be targeted to travelers far and wide from the local area, within the county or region, from neighboring states, or even from other countries.

    • When does the community want visitors? This could be during special events, peak seasons, or off-season.
       

  3. Prepare, protect, and manage various types of tours or offers. A few examples include: 

    • Audio tour that individuals can access within a site or on walking or driving tours 

    • Coupon book with coupons offering discounts or special premiums

    • Family packages/programs geared toward children and adults traveling with them

    • Cultural corridor/heritage trail linking attractions by a marked touring (driving, walking, boating, or biking) route

    • Independent traveler itinerary that suggests a route and attractions to see within a specific time frame "Passport" (thematic/regional) program to encourage travelers to visit certain linked sites in order to secure a prize or premium

    • Trolley tour of a specific destination

    • Walking tour (self-guided/hosted).
       

  4. Market for success by planning for the following essential components

    • Public relations

    • Advertising

    • Graphic materials

    • Promotions

RESOURCES

Indiana Office of Tourism Development

Advisory Council on Historic Preservation (heritage tourism funding programs)

Cultural Heritage Tourism (guide)

Four Steps for Successful and Sustainable Cultural Heritage Tourism

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