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Cultural Heritage Tourism

Cultural Heritage Tourism is a natural partner to eco and nature-based tourism. Heritage is a broad term applied to things, places and practices, which we value and wish to conserve for future generations. In Australia cultural heritage is often divided into Indigenous heritage and the period following colonisation.

Many tourists gain exposure to Indigenous culture in national parks and other natural settings. Indigenous people have a deep and ongoing relationship with the Australian landscape. Many Indigenous communities have connections to national parks and other protected areas. In some places this is reflected in joint management or partnerships to manage areas of land for conservation, tourism and cultural heritage outcomes. Indigenous people provide an alterative perspective on land and wildlife management that adds value to contemporary land management practices. Shared or joint management is fundamental to accommodating Aboriginal cultural tourism and its ongoing development in national parks (see DEH’s Steps to Sustainable Tourism). It also allows Aboriginal people to share their culture and stories, which in turn can provide tangible benefits to traditional owners.

Research undertaken by the STCRC identify the following benefits from Indigenous Cultural tourism:

  • Economic opportunities for Indigenous groups;
  • Promotion of self determination;
  • Cross cultural exchange;
  • Preservation of traditional cultures, and
  • Natural resource management.

Factors impacting on the successful development of Indigenous tourism include a lack of skills, ownership, and available finance; competition for eco/nature-based tourism; a low market profile; cultural factors; the structure and administration of government programs; and assistance and issues relating to any small and remote business. In addition, the lack of formal and informal business networks between Indigenous people and businesses and the mainstream tourism industry is an impediment. There are also unhelpful mainstream industry perceptions of Indigenous tourism.

Recent research indicates that Australia’s cultural and heritage tourism market in 2007 was predominantly comprised of domestic visitors. In 2007, there were 10.9 million domestic overnight visitors who participated in cultural or heritage activities and 10.4 million domestic day visitorsSince 2006 the number of domestic overnight cultural and heritage visitors has grown by 11% while total domestic overnight visitation remained flat over this same period. Tourism Research Australia (TRA) research indicates international cultural and heritage visitors have increased 3% since 2006. This was slightly higher than total international visitors during this period (2%). Both international (40 nights) and domestic (6 nights) cultural and heritage visitors stay longer than international and domestic non-cultural and heritage visitors (20 nights and 4 nights respectively).

Recent cultural tourism research projects by the STCRC have focused on:

  • The development and implementation of methodologies to estimate the economic value that Australians place on national cultural institutions;
  • Ways to assist the Australian tourism industry (particularly those located in regional and rural areas) in understanding the growing importance of cultural tourism, by developing a number of case studies of cultural landscapes tourism;
  • The development of factors that contribute to success in achieving viable cultural heritage tourism and heritage conservation goals;
  • Examples of cost effective strategies to revive and update interpretation in a heritage tourist attraction, and
  • How to enhance the sustainable use of heritage sites in Australian tourism through the development of a thematic framework for the interpretation of cultural heritage sites for use in tourism.


Browse case studies:

Culture and Heritage Tourism Research Snapshot

This document profiles key Sustainable Tourism Cooperative Research Centre (STCRC) research in the field of cultural and heritage tourism, an important and growing component of the Australian tourism landscape. It has been developed with both industry and custodians of cultural and heritage assets in mind. It brings together summaries, statistics, key findings and recommendations in an easily accessible resource.
by Sustainable Tourism Cooperative Research Centre (STCRC)

Indigenous Tourism in Australia: Profiling the domestic market

Tourism Research Australia (TRA) has collected valuable data on Indigenous tourism visitors through its International Visitor Survey (IVS) and National Visitor Surveys (IVS and NVS).

by Tourism Research Australia

Indigenous Tourism Involvement in Queensland

The aim of this research is to examine mainstream and Indigenous tourism operators and key industry stakeholders’ ideas, attitudes and experiences of Indigenous involvement in the tourism industry. In addition, the research was used to gauge perceived opportunities for further Indigenous tourism development.

by Noah Nielsen, Jeremy Buultjens and Deborah Gale

Living Memory and the Interpretation of Heritage

The study aimed to develop a digital interactive to enrich visitor experiences at heritage tourism sites. It also developed a suite of guidelines to allow heritage tourism operators (and heritage managers) to operate a similar interactive module at heritage sites throughout Australia.

Celmara Pocock, Marion Stell, Lucy Frost, Julia Crozier and Simon Ancher

Success Factors in Cultural Heritage Tourism Enterprise Management

This project sought to identify critical factors for successfully balancing viable cultural heritage tourism (enterprise with heritage conservation goals. Information was gathered from site visits and interviews with operators and cultural heritage managers. The outcomes will be of interest to government agencies and heritage tourism operators in the public and private sector.

by Jack Carlsen, Michael Hughes, Warwick Frost, Celmara Pocock and Vicki Peel

Successful Tourism at Heritage Places: a guide for tourism operators, heritage managers and communities

In 1998, the need to develop guidelines for tourism where heritage places are involved was identified. This followed recognition that there needed to be a stronger bridge between tourism industry codes of practice and heritage conservation principles.

by Australian Heritage Commission and Sustainable Tourism CRC

Sustaining Indigenous Cultural Tourism: Aboriginal Pathways, Cultural Centres and Dwellings in the Queensland Wet Tropics

This scoping study seeks to provide an overview of current Indigenous cultural tourism in the Wet Tropics region of north-eastern Australia, and examines both the opportunities and impediments for Aboriginal operated tours in the mosaic of rural landscapes and protected areas that make up this region. In particular, the study aims to describe and assess enterprises that integrate knowledge of traditional Dyirbal dwellings, camps and building technologies and associated environmental knowledge (ethno-architecture) into cultural tours and experiences.

by Tim O’Rourke and Paul Memmott

The Costs and Implications of Inter-Firm Collaboration in Remote Area Tourism

This study found understanding the strategic value and design of collaborative linkages in tourism is likely to play a significant role in ensuring businesses’ competitiveness and supporting the sustainability of destinations. Its objectives were to determine the factors that hinder and/or foster collaboration between tourism and/or non-tourism businesses; identify the respondents’ perceptions of costs, benefits, risks, current barriers, and potential actions to encourage collaboration in and across regions. It then used the information to identify gaps, future opportunities and possible directions for collaboration in regional areas.

by Pascal Tremblay and Aggie Wegner

The Old and the New: Success factors in cultural heritage tourism enterprise management

This booklet is an industry summary of the full report, Success Factors in Cultural Heritage Tourism Enterprise Management, containing references, methodology and detailed findings from the  project. The project has identified the critical factors for successfully balancing viable cultural heritage tourism (CHT) enterprises with heritage conservation goals.