Cultural Tourism

*Extracted from the report on the technical seminar on cultural tourism and poverty aleviation that was held 8th June 2004, Siem Reap Cambodia, as part of the 41st meeting of WTO Commission for East Asia and the Pacific that took place from 7 - 9 June 2004. The seminar was organized by World Tourism Organization in close cooperation with the Ministry of Tourism of The Royal Kingdom of Cambodia.

Cultural tourism forms an important component of international tourism in our world today. It represents movements of people motivated by cultural intents such as study tours, performing arts, festivals, cultural events, visits to sites and monuments, as well as travel for pilgrims. Cultural tourism is also about immersion in and enjoyment of the lifestyle of the people, the local area and what constitutes its identity and character.

International tourist arrivals are forecast to top 1 billion in 2012 and over 1.6 billion in 2020. Among the segments of tourism, cultural tourism stands out owing to its growth in popularity, which is faster than most other segments and certainly, faster than the rate of growth of tourism worldwide.

Asia is richly endowed with some of the world’s most outstanding and grandest monuments such as Angkor Wat, Borobudur, the Great Wall and the Taj Mahal. In addition, the continent boasts an impressive number of less known cultural assets, tangible as well as intangible, that could progressively be converted into a vibrant tourism supply. In fact, many of the Asia-Pacific countries have been successful in utilizing their cultural resources as the main product of tourism. In order to encourage this aspect of tourism development, a special international conference on cultural tourism was organized by WTO in 2000 to address the very issue of culture and its relationship with tourism development. At this conference a wide range of case studies were presented from all over the world to discuss the impacts of tourism on the preservation and conservation of cultural heritage, policies and guidelines for cultural tourism development and its marketing techniques.

Using culture as vehicle for sustainable tourism development is now becoming an important item in the priorities of public policy planners. Apart from socioeconomic benefits that cultural tourism can generate for the well being of countries, the World Tourism Organization endeavors to explore the possibilities of using cultural tourism as a potential tool in fighting against poverty. As is known to all, many poor and remote countries are rich in intangible cultural resources such as customs and folklore and are often located near famous heritage sites. If well combined and integrated into tourism products, these two cultural resources, intangible and tangible, can become a powerful and perhaps the only tool for reducing poverty levels of such communities.

Through cultural tourism it is hoped that the remarkable growth rate projected and the higher expenditure profile of cultural tourists will help to generate economic growth, investment and employment and consequently, make an important contribution to poverty reduction – a top priority among the UN Millennium Development Goals and an ethical obligation of public and private decision makers.

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