The tourism industry has experienced massive growth over the years. It is one of the world’s principal businesses and has been sustained by the increase in international trade. Its contribution to the global GDP in 2011 was 9% with 255 million people working in the tourism industry (World Tourism and Travel Council 1).
Many people travel far and wide to see, discover and enjoy the culture and heritage of other people. In turn, it has led to civilization and peaceful coexistence among the world’s inhabitants.
Tourism has both positive and negative impacts in a community or region. Tourism helps in preserving traditions, financing the guarding of the customs and heritage, improving dialogue and mutual understanding and alleviating poverty. Its negative impacts include damaging of the heritage through depletion of resources if not well run and administered and social degradation.
Tourism has to be well managed to ensure sustainability in the long term. Preservation and enrichment of cultural tourism can be achieved through involvement and participation of local communities; formulating policies to guide the local governments or regions in managing their tourism sites and changing people’s attitude and perception of tourism.
Cultural tourism is that form of tourism that involves a country’s or region’s lifestyle, their history, art, architecture, religion and beliefs that aided in shaping their way of life. It is one of the biggest and fastest growing worldwide tourism markets. Cultural tourism has become very competitive and attractive and as such, many countries have taken a keen interest in it as a source for economic development. Therefore, they are vigorously developing and promoting their tangible and intangible cultural assets to ensure their uniqueness and attractiveness.
Each country has its own unique cultural attraction sites. In this research, four regions are described. The regions selected are Liab Klong Phraya Bunlea area in Thailand, Azerbaijan, Egypt and Brazil. The various forms of tangible cultural tourism in the regions are highlighted, their impact on the economic growth and how the local government is involved in ensuring sustainability of the cultures.
Forms of material culture
Material culture can be termed as a form of culture that comprises all tangible, physical and man-made artifacts, objects, resources, items, spaces and expressions that define the past and modern day. Forms of material culture include buildings such as churches, temples, mosques, industries and temples; monuments; artifacts; goods and products; historic towns; archeological areas; landscape; and tools.
UNESCO has tried setting a global structure for protecting the various forms of culture and heritage. Through the various conventions and declarations held since 1972, arts, monuments and different types of built environment have been protected (Robinson and Picard 18).
Liab Klong Phraya Bunlea community, Thailand
Tourism is a key revenue earner for the Thai Republic. The industry successfully developed due to the injection of more than ten thousand million baht to improve and ensure its growth (Buranakitti, Keraaatiburana, and Wata 86). Liab Klong Phraya Bunlea area covers Lad Bua Luang, Song Pee Nong and Bang Len districts.
The tangible cultural assets in the Liab Klong community comprise of archeological sites, native foods, traditional goods, raw materials and agricultural products.
In the three districts, the material forms of cultural attractions include a shrine of the city god; Rat Bua Luang, Tri Para Sima and Suttawat temples; Ya Mi Auk Koy Rot, Nu Rul Da Ya, Na See Rud Deen and Al Furqon mosques; Phraya Bunluea, Pisorn, Kwang Wat Tee, Lamrang Nong Plamor, Mekala, Mue Kong, Lak Chai and Ton Tan canals; products and goods from shells, coconuts, corn peel, flowers created from menthol and dried grass frames; and native foods such as preserved fruits, baked bagasse fish, coconut candy and crisp rice (Buranakitti, Keraaatiburana, and Wata 88-89).
From the examples given, it is seen that this community has many tangible cultural assets and therefore, preservation is of utmost importance.
The massive growth of the tourism industry has come with its own positive and negative repercussions. The standards of living of the people have tremendously increased. This is attributed to the income generated from tourism, both directly and indirectly. Despite this, nature, environment and culture have all been negatively affected.
To ensure proper management and conservation of tourism sites, the Thai government through the local government organization decided to engage the local community and entrepreneurs by holding seminars where ideas could be shared on ways of improving the community’s cultural sites.
Furthermore, it came up with a three year development plan (2010-2012) for promoting transport and all public utilities in the area; improving the education system and promotion of indigenous knowledge to preserve religion, art and culture; educating people on the significance of natural resources and environment through promotion of programmes for improving landscapes and eliminating waste products and coming up with a methodology for managing the income generated from tourism (Buranakitti, Keraaatiburana, and Wata 90). With all these efficient measures in place, the tourism industry in Thailand is set to blossom and grow.
Azeri culture of Azerbaijan
Azerbaijan is one of the ancient nations of the world. It has many cultural monuments and works of art. Due to its location and different climatic zones, it is very attractive for tourism. Artists in the country decided to explore their abilities and creative skills and therefore came up with fine and rich works of folk arts.
The folk arts are used to exhibit the people’s way of life, their artistic tastes and the state’s image and significance (Baku Tourism Information Center 3). Other cultural assets include historic buildings and monuments such as Azikh cave, maze of alleys and remnants of fortification such as the Palace of Shirvanshahs and Maiden Tower.
The tourism sector contributes 10% of GNP, 8% of export and 8.1% of jobs (Bayramov, Aliyeva, and Mikayilov 1). However, the sector is unexploited. This is seen clearly when compared to Turkey which earned US$20.807 billion in tourism revenue in 2010. Cyprus made a profit of US$2 billion while Azerbaijan earned US$100 million (Bayramov, Aliyeva, and Mikayilov 2).
The sector is untapped and impeded by high costs of travel and hotel accommodation, poor service quality, low levels of tourism marketing and promotion, poor infrastructure, lack of skilled guides and interpreters, difficulty in visa processing and lack of travel guide books (Bayramov, Aliyeva, and Mikayilov 5).
To increase revenue generation from tourism, the Azerbaijan government should aim at improving infrastructure such as electricity, water, gas and proper sanitations; increasing commuter buses to tourism sites as well as providing traveling guides in the buses; construction of more restaurants in the tourist localities; building and improving hotels for accommodation purposes and ensuring the services offered are of high quality meeting international standards.
Since most historical spaces are closed, the government should ensure that these sites are refurbished and reopened to the public. Educating the local people on the ways of protecting their cultural sites and ways of earning income from tourism should be encouraged and lastly, the government should ensure that extensive marketing and advertising is done both internally and internationally.
Cultural tourism in Egypt
Egypt is an African country with numerous monumental landmarks making it one of the most popular destinations. Tourism is one of its major income earners. Examples of landmarks in Egypt are the famous pyramids (Giza, Sakkara, Dahshour, Abu Rawash and Mydoum); Luxor temple; the Sphinx; museums such as Egyptian and Coptic; Sultan Hassan Mosque; castle of Qaitbay; monastery of St. Paul and amphitheatre of Kom El-Dikka.
Egypt’s tourism sector was producing annual revenue of more than US$12 billion (Global Heritage Fund 3) with an economic growth of 7% per year (Reuters 2).
In early 2011, there were nonviolent demonstrations demanding for a change in government and leadership. This revolution hugely impacted on the tourism sector as fewer tourists visited the cultural sites due to fear of the upheaval. This led to a decline in the revenue generated by US$4 billion (Global Heritage Fund 3). Political stability has since prevailed after election of a new government.
In 2012, the economy growth rate was 2% and the number of tourists visiting Egypt in the first nine months stood at 8.8 million with an additional 4million expected by the end of 2012(Trade Arabia News Service 1). It is projected that the number of tourists will increase in 2013 to 15million (Trade Arabia News Service 4). The Egyptian government, through the Egypt Tourist Authority is boosting the tourism sector by funding and supporting festivals to ensure a continuous stream of tourists into the country.
Cultural tourism in Brazil
Brazil’s tourism economy is the fastest rising in Latin America. In 2011, the industry contributed US$79 billion to the GDP and 7.7 million jobs (World Travel and Tourism Council 1). The industry is boosted by the influx of tourists to its world heritage sites. These sites include historic towns and centers of Ouro Preto, Olinda, Sao Luis, Diamantina and Goias; Sao Miguel das Missoes ruins; Sanctuary of Bom Jesus Congonhas; City of Brasilia; Pantanal Conservation area and Jau and Iguacu National Parks.
However, Brazil’s tourism industry is hampered by the lack of adequate infrastructure such as airports, ports and hotels; poor service delivery and lack of properly trained workforce (Lohmann and Dredge 1).
With the FIFA world cup being hosted in Brazil in 2014 and the Olympic Games in 2016, the government is tasked with improving and increasing the airports, ports and hotels to accommodate tourists expected there in 2014. Moreover, the government has invested in the industry by increasing its funding by 5.2% and marketing tourism (World Travel and Tourism Council 4).
The examples described above show the importance of cultural tourism on a country’s economic growth. Tangible cultural assets have become vital elements for promoting tourism. Proper management of cultural and heritage sites ensures sustainability of tourism and enhances economic growth. Involvement of local communities in protecting the cultural sites, offering quality services, good infrastructure and ensuring security of tourists are some of the factors that develop tourism.
Baku Tourism Information Center. “Azerbaijan Culture: General Information on Azeri Culture.” Ministry of Culture and Tourism of Azerbaijan. 2012. Web.
Bayramov, Vugar, Leyla Aliyeva and Xalid Mikayilov. “CESD Policy Report on Tourism Sector in Azerbaijan.” Center for Economic and Social Development. July 2011. PDF file. 15 Nov. 2012.
Buranakitti, Sarinyarapat, Ying Keraaatiburana and Chakraphat Wata. “The Cultural Tourism Development Model of the Local Government Organization in Liab Klong Phraya Bunlea Community.” American Journal of Scientific Research. 58 (2012): 85-96. Euro Journal Publishing Inc. Web.
Global Heritage Fund. Heritage on the Wire: Egypt’s Tourism Sector Tumbles amid Violence. 2012. Web.
Lohmann, Gui and Dianne Dredge. Tourism in Brazil: Environment, Management and Segments. Routledge. 1 June 2012.Print
Reuters. “Egypt Invests in Tourism and Film Industry to Boost Economy.” Al Arabiya News Channel, 23 Sep. 2012. Web.
Robinson, Mike and David Picard. “Tourism, Culture and Sustainable Development.” United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, 2006. PDF file. 15 Nov. 2012
Trade Arabia News Service. Egypt Sees 12million Tourists in 2012. 15 Nov. 2012. Web..
World Tourism and Travel Council. Brazil is leading the Travel & Tourism Economy in Latin America. 16 Mar. 2012. Web..