Cultural tourism refers to the movement of people from their usual places of residence to other cultural attractions with an intention of satisfying their cultural needs (Greg, 1996, p. 24). In Europe, charters exist that provide the benchmarks for best tourism practices based on cultural heritage resources.
However, this is not the case in Asia which is still formulating its tourism policies. Being a developed region, Europe has highly established services and infrastructure system with consistent evaluation systems that helps in rating its economic performance and benefit in the tourism sector unlike Asia.
People participate in cultural tourism for learning purposes and other reasons which include: relaxation and pleasure, Aesthetic experience, Facilitate social interaction and enhance kinship relationships, religious motives etc. Cultural Tourism operates within a social, economic and policy framework. An increase in cultural growth has contributed to the rise in demand for cultural facilities (Greg, 2007).
Cultural tourism has therefore been continuously used as an income generating venture to help raise funds to be used in putting up these facilities. Availability and development of new tourism facilities creates employment opportunities and shape cultural policies. Development of new cultural products is therefore very important in the competitive global market to complement the contemporary conventional products in the market.
Despite the existence of unique culture based, spiritual, natural, rich and diverse cultural heritage sites, South Asia is still one of the poorest regions in the market. Asian countries should therefore encourage regional cooperation to promote cultural tourism to their nature-based and unique destinations.
This will help in raising incomes for its people as well as offer employment opportunities apart from causing economic expansion. Regional cooperation will enhance attraction of high end tourists who are able to spend a lot of money on tourism for extended periods of stay.
Asia’s domestic and international tourism is growing rapidly and is getting into an explosive phase; this is because the number of visitors from China, Japan, Korea, Malaysia and Taiwan is continually increasing. With a projected increase in the middle class population in China, it is likely to spill over to Asia in the International rank of tourism.
The wealthy people in the countries neighbouring Asia are mobile and continually seek travel opportunities for recreation and learning. Although characterised by tourism and pilgrimage, Asia’s tourism sector is growing first because the government is enacting favourable policies that recognise emerging trends in the tourism sector (Brooks, 2005).
Exploitation of tourism assets for short term gains should be discouraged and all local policies should favor and benefit the local people. This will help them take pride in owning the facilities and will be enthusiastic to welcome and take care of visitors. Local talent, employment and investment is promoted when tourists buy local merchandise, crafts and cuisine made based on local themes.
The worldwide approach of promoting countries as preferred international tourism destinations is no longer viable and instead policies that promotes tourism regionally or locally should be encouraged.
Asia depends on Cultural heritage sites like monuments and historic sites which are increasingly growing sophisticated besides the emerging trends to promote cultural tourism. As the middle class increase their wealth, international travel and domestic tourism is also increasing. The number of international casualties affected by these calamities shows that this destination is popular and reliance on coastal recreation only should be avoided. Diversity should be encouraged by building other cultural heritage assets. Epidemics and natural calamities like tsunamis are however causing a reduction in arrivals.
Greatly reduced prices have come with an increased number of travelers to the region creating competitive business practices. Due to poor surface transport and large distances, charter airlines are also emerging as is the case with Europe. With many spectacular heritage sites, packaged tourism of listed facilities is causing high concentrations of tourists in designated areas causing population imbalances since the local people are also moving to these areas with hope to get jobs.
The increased numbers are also straining the available hotel, environmental, transport and facilities thus the increased need for hotel facilities (Brooks, 2005). In many instances, economic benefits do not trickle down to the local people because advertisements tend to concentrate on economic benefits causing short duration visits that ignore interaction with local people and culture. Business people should therefore take up the risks and profits involved since government subsidies cannot be maintained for long.
The tourism sector is largely private owned and the economic returns only benefit a few individuals. As the numbers of tourists increase, these private owned companies still put pressure on the government to provide facilities like roads, airports ,telecommunication systems, water and infrastructure facilities to increase their profit potential.
A poor and incomprehensive legislative framework has contributed to the slow progress in protection of natural heritage sites despite the hiring of professional and expatriates to conserve historic built sites. Global conservation funds have also been provided to promote conservation initiatives. Government policies on tourism should ensure that must of the revenue collected is retained within the local economy so that the benefits trickle down to the local people.
Cultural distinctiveness and heritage is a tool that can be used to reduce poverty. Government policies should therefore be formulated to conserve and protect heritage resources for long term sustainability of the tourism sector. Excessive pressure on these resources should be discouraged and public involvement is very vital in order to sustain this initiative.
Promotional campaigns should focus on the history, diversity, cultural heritage and living culture other that the exotic lifestyle portrayed. Local communities should also be engaged when identifying heritage sites.
Brooks, G. (2005). Emerging Strategies for Cultural Tourism. Retrieved from http://www.india-seminar.com/2005/554/554%20graham%20brooks.htm
Greg, R. (2007). Cultural tourism: global and local perspectives. New York: Haworth Hospitality Press.
Greg, R. (1996). Cultural Tourism in Europe. Wallingford: CABI.