What is Heritage Tourism?

We are often asked to define heritage tourism. In our view, activities and services which provide international and domestic visitors with the opportunity to experience, understand and enjoy the special values of a region’s heritage, are sometimes referred to as heritage tourism.

Recognition of the significance of heritage assets, and ensuring their long-term protection, is essential for sustainable and appropriate tourism. Visiting heritage places can be part of a range of activities undertaken by tourists or it can be the sole reason for travel for people with a high level of interest in natural and cultural heritage.

Specialist ecotourism, nature-based tourism, adventure tourism, historic or cultural tourism products all often involve heritage places. Tourism to heritage places often works very effectively in combination with other specialist tourism.


‘Heritage’ and ‘Culture’ have become interchangeable and elastic terms. In the context of the arts for example, the use of the term culture relates to how a society’s history, beliefs, values, traditions and icons are manifested in an artistic format. The term often embraces Indigenous and natural culture, depending upon the perspective of the proponent.  For the purposes of tourism planning, the following working definitions are often employed:

Heritage Tourism

Sustainable tourism activity that is, or can be, aligned to physical or intangible heritage.

Physical Heritage

Built structures and surrounds; cultural landscapes; historic sites, areas and precincts; ruins, archaeological and maritime sites; sites associated with mining, industrial, scientific and agricultural heritage; sites of important events and commemorations; collections that house or collectively promote objects of heritage significance (eg museums, tours, trails and festivals) and created landscapes (eg  botanic and public gardens).

Intangible Heritage

Oral traditions, languages, rituals and beliefs, social practices, knowledge, human activities, multicultural interactions, and stories and histories that shape the essence and character of a host community.

Heritage tourism occupies a significant proportion of the ‘cultural tourism’ spectrum, and while it often overlaps with and links to other tourism product, the historic or human dimensions considerably inform and shape all parts of the spectrum. In this sense, heritage provides an ‘overarching’ component or common thread for many tourism products in a country or localised area.

Future posts in this Blog will deal with many aspects of heritage tourism. Contact Lorton if you would like professional input on planning and development of heritage tourism in your region, town, site or precinct.


  1. I am a teacher in many tourism colleges.
    this carrier needs to be equipped in different tourism related knowledge.
    therefore, would you please forward to me some advice related to heritage based tourism management
    thank you in advance for your help

    • Darryl Lombard

      Dr Ayalew Sisay, I have sent an e-mail directly to you. Regards.

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