The role of tourism in the conservation of cultural heritage with particular relevance for South Africa
Thesis (DPhil)--Stellenbosch University, 2005.
Three decades ago heritage tourism was virtually unknown as a tourism product and the only reference to the word ‘heritage’ was in the description of a legal process in a will by which a person received some or other form of inheritance. This formerly legal term has in recent times undergone a fundamental expansion and now includes almost any intergenerational exchange or relationship. A growing commercial heritage industry has now established itself by converting the past into products and experiences. One of the foremost vehicles in this process has been that of tourism. Tourism, in spite of its economic-generating capacity is not an homogenous industry and consequently does not necessarily feel compelled to subscribe to the standard principles governing sustainability. However, there is an increasing awareness in the formal tourism industry of the advantages of subscribing to these principles, if not for any other reasons than those related to good business practice. Tourists from around the world are increasingly demanding a more responsible tourism product that supports the conservation of the natural as well as the cultural environment. The conservation of cultural resources and the process of its conversion into tourism products can provide the impetus and the incentive necessary for reviving cultural identity. This in turn has the effect of creating a favourable developmental climate for new heritage tourism products which the market needs in its continuous search for innovation and diversification. The characteristics of South African tourism products are in line with global market trends for cultural heritage tourism and there is evidence of increased co-ordination of initiatives in this regard. South Africa has been singled out by the World Tourism Organisation in their Tourism 2020 Vision (WTO 1998) as one of six countries predicted to make great strides in the tourism industry during the period leading up to 2020. Whilst South Africa has tremendous advantages in the global tourism market, it also has some critical challenges. Foremost amongst these are a lack of capacity in some areas and its inability to consistently meet international standards in terms of product quality and service levels. In addition to these supply-related operational shortcomings, there is evidence that the state of the cultural heritage product does not entirely meet international standards. If South Africa is to conserve its cultural heritage (in the face of modern pressures, such as changing values occasioned by the rapid pace of urbanisation) the recognition of these important resources should be followed by strong national policies with appropriate structures to accommodate best practice in the sustainable management thereof.