This report involves a comparative analysis of development and success of cultural heritage tourism propelled by architectural attractions that form essential tourism attraction sites in two heritages sites namely Valletta in Malta and Venice in Italy. The capital of Valletta and Venice are two cities in the republic of Malta and the republic of Italy respectively, which have shown competitive architectural designing, and thus form substantial tourism attractions in the two countries.
According to the research findings of this study, the two heritage sites have in common assisted in the Italian and the Republic of Malta’s economic growth. However, Venice seems to be deteriorating in its heritage tourism demand due to historical management malpractices, but Valletta’s demand is surging specifically due to its modernised culture.
Globally, the tourism industry has consistently gained international acceptance with several nations making considerable efforts into improving their tourism department in the unrelenting quest to meet international standards and maintain the prevailing competence. For several past decades, the world has experienced extended growth and development strategies within the tourism sectors.
Tourism departments in many nations across the globe have formulated different forms of tourism attractions to fit in the competitive global tourism sector. Italy forms part of the greatest tourism hubs in the globe, with cities in this nation fighting to gain regional and global acceptance in the tourism realm. Republic of Malta is another country, which has proven competitive in the same.
For several decades, tourism department in these countries have consistently evolved from traditional tourism sectors into advanced and technologically enhanced tourism. In an attempt to cover this topic by using a SWOT analysis comparative technique, this study seeks to provide an international comparative analysis report on the development and success of cultural heritage tourism in two heritage sites namely the Capital of Malta, Valletta and Venice in Italy.
Overview of Cultural heritage tourism
Conventionally, tourism industries around the globe form an imperative part of socio- economic development in both developing and developed economies. Cultural heritage tourism popularly known as heritage tourism or Diaspora tourism is among the many types of tourism that have evolved in the globe with different countries making substantial efforts in establishing their cultural heritage sites to attract tourists from the different corners of the globe.
Heritage tourism specifically describes the overall traditional or cultural aspects of tourism. Cultural heritage tourism ranges from art works (architecture), historic buildings, and beautiful sceneries, which form part of tourism cantered from inherited tradition (Poria, Butler & Airey 2003). For several past decades, research has concentrated on the heritage tourism industry with the subject becoming an area of interest from a range of disciplines.
Moreover, this tourism industry is standing out as a useful element in understanding the social and cultural lives of individuals across the globe. Poria, Butler, and Airey (2003) affirm that it is within the heritage industry that researchers are able to “differentiate between cultural, natural, and built elements” (p. 239).
Background to the study
Cultural heritage tourism forms an integral part in the tourism industry as it strengthens the national economy of Italy and Malta, and shapes the cultural life of communities in the country (Halewood & Hannam 2001). Research has established that heritage is the most challenging and difficult aspect of tourism attraction to maintain since in several occasions, tourism management leaves heritage sites in poor conditions and this aspect normally leads to deterioration of such sites.
For instance, archaeological heritage depreciates with time since important archaeological structures and sites suffer from poor management; therefore, they easily depreciate in their value (Council of Europe 2008). The Italian and that of Republic of Malta tourism management boards have consistently engaged in tourism management practices that enhance the tourism industry including those which play important roles in advancing the heritage tourism sector (Uriely, Israeli & Reichel 2002).
Two important tourism attraction cities are imperative and subject to the discussion of this study, viz. Valletta and Venice, and they form the greatest economic hubs resulting from tourism attraction.
The city of Valletta hails from the republic of Italy and it ranks among the greatest and most important cities in Italy that compose the tourism economic hubs. Named “after its founder, who is a respected master in St John, Jean Parisot de la Valette, Valletta is a stronghold city that offers living suburbs, working centres, administrative units, and commercial midpoint of several neighbouring islands” (Walsh 2009, p.18).
With well established “grids of narrow streets, the city of Valletta has the potential to attract several tourists through its finest art works, churches, and palaces” (European Capitals of Culture 2010, p. 8). According to heritage studies undertaken by European Capitals of Culture (2010), Valletta hosts vast cultural programs that involve intriguing historical sites including votive statues, fountains, and niches with which several streets provide a unique serene sight of attractive shops, cafes, music studios, jewellery shops, and several important features of tourism attraction.
Since its inception, Valletta has been consistent in its development strategies and has shown unswerving response towards the dynamics of time and change. In the early 18th centuries, the city developed into a Cultural and Commercial Hub from its previous state of Maritime Super City in the 17th century.
Reports by the European Union (2009) indicate, “Valletta is considered as one of the finest harbours in the world and a unique experience to all seafarers and passengers sailing on the luxury yachts and liner” (p. 2). Up to date, Valletta has proven competent in its cultural tradition as compared to other European cities in the late 20th century.
Currently, several support groups, stakeholders, and other organisations affiliated with Italy have been striving to make Valletta a unique tourism experience. Several action plans and strategies have emerged and stakeholders are increasingly showing interest in developing and expanding tourism sectors in Malta in general.
In Malta, “tourists can find accommodation from hostels, hotels, big restaurants, and even host families” (European Capitals of Culture 2010, p. 9). Heritage tourism forms an integral part of the entire tourism sector in the capital of Malta, viz. Valletta (Proops 1991). Several organisations and initiatives are responsible for enhancing and improving heritage tourism in Valletta.
One of the most important institutes responsible for “heritage tourism in Valletta is the Institute of Conservation and Management of Cultural Heritage (ICMCH)” (Borg, Costa, & Gotti 1996, p. 316). According to Newman and Smith (2000), this institute has consistently “improved the teaching and research arm of the heritage tourism in Malta; in addition, ICMCH promotes and co-ordinates the pursuit of interdisciplinary training at technical, professional, and artisan levels” (p. 18).
For several decades now, ICMCH has made appropriate and consistent use of Heritage Malta Conservation Division’s extensive facilities in providing educational courses in institutions surrounding Malta. Gozo Island is one of the important regions where part-time evening degree courses for students interested in tourism, Arts, and Commerce undertake their studies.
Venice is a big city found in Italy. It is located in the northeast part of Italy and it comprises over one hundred small islands separated by canals and joined by bridges. The globe acknowledges Venice for its beauty resulting from the beauty of its sceneries including its architecture and its artworks (Evans 2003).
The name of the city originated from the historical point of view of the local people, who lived in the area long before the industrial revolution. Being historically the city of Veneti, Venice remains the most prominent city in Italy given its political and economic power.
Given its enhanced artwork and architectural masterpieces, the city remains affiliated with heritage tourism. Such sites include great buildings of ancient models such as “Piazza San Marco, the Rialto Bridge, Doge’s Palace, Saint Mark’s Basilica, and Bridge of Sighs among others” (Kapoor 2005, p. 86). Despite being in the midst of several islands with the perception of transport among tourists reducing its competence, Venice’s geographical positioning has little impact on its tourism attraction following its unique serene.
Venice ranks among the largest Italian cities with great global, economical, and social reputation; in addition, the tourism department in the region is increasingly receiving substantial attention from an historical point of view. According to Borg, Costa, and Gotti (1996), Venice is among the seven greatest art cities in the world namely “Amsterdam, Aix, Bruges, Florence, Oxford, Salzburg, and Venice” (p. 316).
Florence and Amsterdam are the two largest cities in this group each having about four million tourist stays each night and Venice follows in the third position with an estimated number of 2.6 million tourists accommodated each night. Research demonstrates that the number of tourists and the average duration of their stay vary significantly depending on the season and management strategies in the above-mentioned cities.
According to Nasser (2003) American and Japanese tourists form an integral part of tourism populace in Venice, thus forming great economic boosters as desired by Venice. However, studies have identified pitfalls in the tourism management in Venice for several decades, and this situation threatens the development of the tourism industry in this otherwise great cultural city.
Synopsis and evaluation of the comparative techniques utilised
In a bid to enable the researcher to compile a credible comparative report for the two regions, this study decided to identify a comparative technique to enable comprehensive analysis and give an insight in the differences of heritage tourism between Venice and Valletta. In addition, to analyse how strategic the management and heritage centres are, the study found it necessary to formulate comparative techniques to provide proper assessment and analysis of the given heritage cities.
According to Chang and Huang (2006), comparative cum analytical techniques achieve the best results only if well utilised and that researchers only consider them successful if they are capable of providing a critical comparison between two distinct aspects or items under discussion. Therefore, only one comparative technique remained imperative to this study.
According to Stewart, Mohamed, and Daet (2002), comparativeness depicts comprehensive internal and external assessment. This comparative report decided to utilise SWOT analysis as its comparative analysis techniques over heritage tourism in the two mentioned regions, viz. Valletta, the capital of Malta republic and Venice in Italy.
Synopsis of Comparative Analysis Method
SWOT is an acronym that means Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats. It is an analytical tool used in the assessment of strengths and weaknesses that a given environment offers as well as a tool used in examining opportunities and threats provided by a certain environment.
According to Kurttila, Pesonen, Kangas, and Kajanus (2000), SWOT analysis is principally undertaken to provide critical insight into an existing condition between two different environs. If well established, the technique is capable of providing a good background to successful strategy formulation. Research documented by Chang and Huang (2006) indicate, “SWOT analysis of external opportunities and threats as well as the internal strengths and weaknesses of the enterprises is important for strategy formulation and development” (p. 158).
This analysis approach is paramount in research and proper utilisation of the technique in relation to two destinations gives researchers an opportunity to investigate common similarities and differences in two destinations. Construction of SWOT analysis in comparative analysis of heritage tourism of Valletta and Venice is an imperative thing to give a possible insight into the similarities and differences in the two cities.
Comparative evaluation of Heritage tourism in Valletta and Venice
Despite having similar tourism products, Valletta and Venice have had differences in their tourist population given that the two regions have different management techniques coupled with the fact that they serve in different environments. According to Schweitzer (1999), heritage tourism seems to be a common form of cultural tourism across Italy, with the two cities being of greater influence than others are.
Valletta is a dynamic city in the republic of Malta, which has shown consistent improvement in its development inclusive of those changes eminent in the tourism department, thus making the region increasingly important in its regional and international competence (Waitt 2000).
On the other hand, Venice has been one of the oldest cities in Italy; however, the pace of growth in the heritage tourism department and tourism sector in general remains questionable. Based on the SWOT analysis strategy, there is a clear view that the two cities have distinct differences and similarities, with Valletta increasing its competence over Venice.
Main demand trends and characteristics of supply
By giving a comparative analysis of the heritage tourism in Venice and Valletta, it is important to acknowledge the importance of considering the main demand characteristics embedded in each of the heritage sites. A research undertaken by Poria, Butler, and Airey (2003) indicate that, “Heritage tourism stems from the relationship between supply and demand” (p. 249).
Similar conclusions prevailed in other studies including comprehensive studies undertaken by Garrod and Fyall (2000), where the researchers noticed that several prior studies have ignored the aspect of demand and thus less attention exists in the demand component, which is essential in comparative analysis of heritage tourism. Curwell and Turner (2004) assert that using the SWOT analysis technique in analysing the heritage tourism aspect in the two cities coupled with examining the demand trend or rather characteristic of the two cities, form an important part in determining the strengths and weaknesses of the heritage product.
According to McCain and Nina (2003), SWOT analysis in analysing development of tourism aspects must ensure proper utilisation of the aspects of demand. Comparing the two cities, Valletta is a modern city based on cultural heritage with more heritage sites compared to Venice. Tourists have been keen to visit the variety of heritage sites found in Valletta including monuments, historic sites, and groups of buildings modified to fit the current tourism demand (European Union 2010).
This element acts as a Valletta’s strength over Venice, with management and stakeholders in the two cities behaving differently. Using a Cultural Heritage Integrated Management Plan (CHIMP), managers and stakeholders governing the heritage tourism department in Valletta have been in a position to implement integrated management techniques as one of the innovative instruments (European Capitals of Culture 2010).
According to McCain and Nina (2003), contrary to the case of Valletta, poor management techniques have altered the heritage tourism demand in Venice. Further investigations undertaken by Borg, Costa, and Gotti (1996) indicate that Venice’s tourism demand is falling due to poor management as tourists have consistently complained about the restricted access to important heritage sites like Piazzale Roma and a limited number of hotel facilities. Accessibility of tourism sites is one of the central tourism management aspects; unfortunately, the management of Venice has failed terribly in this aspect.
Potential for market success
Market potentiality is among the SWOT analysis techniques necessary in comparative analysis of two destinations. Using the SWOT analysis technique, the potential for market success can best describe the opportunities surrounding a certain business environment (Kelly & Nankervis 1998; Forsyth 1997).
Given the management stability found within the tourism management systems encompassed by heritage tourism department in Valletta, the city stands a better chance of expanding its market potentiality than the heritage tourism found in Venice (Samuelson & Nordhaus 2005).
Regardless of its age in terms of existence, Valletta has been consistent in its development with its subsequent market structure and competence gradually gaining regional and international prominence, with Venice gradually deteriorating due to prolonged mismanagement practices that have existed for long (Evans 2003).
Despite its strategic positioning and a better transport network that existed due to its early development, Venice cannot match the growing market potential managed and controlled by Valletta. The heritage sites designed in traditional architect with the modern aspects give Valletta a better market competence compared to Venice.
Both Venice and Valletta are of great social impact on Italy and Malta respectively. Several tourists, especially from the Unites States of America and other parts of the world concur that these regions harbour beautiful sceneries offering unique experiences of heritage tourism.
From this point of view, through their ability to attract tourists from different spheres of life continentally, the cultural diversity of the two cities enhances exchange of culture between the native Italians or Malta residents and tourists (Curwell & Turner 2004). Due to the increased heritage tourism that has been eminent in several past decades, the Malta and Italian natives have shown considerable changes in their social living, and thus the social classes of these nationals living near the two cities are gradually improving.
According to reports documented by the European Union (2009), people of Valletta and Venice are now enhancing ecotourism through the influence created from their social interactions with tourists visiting the two heritage cities. Evans (2008) further asserts that the numbers of ecotourism activities in heritage cities across the world are increasing at a high rate with 23 per cent being the annual percentage increase.
Future view projections
Given the changing trend of tourist population in the two regions, it is quite difficult to determine the future projections and happenings in these cities. However, based on the observations reached by this study, there are possibilities that community participation in heritage tourism will likely increase with time (Greffe 2002).
The level of ecotourism is increasing and possibilities of having great local participation in the heritage tourism coupled with social interaction between other nations, Malta and Italy are on the rise (Isaac 2008). Research studies estimate that with the increasing awareness and importance of heritage tourism, both Valletta and Venice expect to grow beyond their common boundaries and undoubtedly hit the global heritage tourism realm.
As witnessed in the previous decades, the interest from stakeholders, NGOs, and other governmental institutions are increasing their interest in investing in the heritage tourism industry and the two cities expect much in the near future.
Conclusively, heritage tourism has continuously formed an integral part of the entire tourism department in Italy and both the city of Venice and Valletta have a significant contribution to this sector. However, development in the heritage tourism of Valletta seems to be gradually increasing its competence against that of Venice (Banerjee 2002).
Management techniques employed by stakeholders and managers in the two cities seem to provide a different perception over each other. Services and facilities found in Valletta have greatly influenced how tourism thrives between the two heritage sites. According to Borg, Costa, and Gotti (1996), the tourism department in Venice has suffered from its historical management malpractices in the tourism department.
The two heritage sites form an important part of social life experienced in Venice and Valletta with the cultural diversity of the two cities gradually changing and ecotourism increasingly gaining national awareness. Finally, the two cities should acknowledge that management is ideal in propelling and enhancing heritage tourism.
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Table 1: Annual visitor’s population per site (Annual Reports 2005-2006)
|Sites||Oct 2005-Sept 2006||Oct 2004-Sept 2005|
|Palace State Rooms||128,349||144,813|
|Hagar Qim Temples||105,548||123,669|
|St. Pauls Catacombs||81,166||97,201|
|National Museum of Archaeology||79,929||80,204|
|Ghar Dalam Cave and Museum||56,018||68,512|
|National War Museum||47,443||55,386|
|Hal Saflieni Hypogeum||23,020||21,541|
|Malta Maritime Museum||19,633||25,294|
|National Museum of Fine Arts||18,214||22,296|
|National Museum of Natural Health||15,215||15,669|
|Museum of Archaeology||9,859||11,876|
|Ta’ Kola Windmill||7,004||7,788|
|Natural Science Museum||6,174||6,603|
|Ta’ Hagrat Temples||n/a|
(Source: Heritage Malta 2006)