How Sustainable has Cultural Tourism proven to be?

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Ndebele women, cultural tourism in South Africa

At some point in our lives, the need to travel (travel more) beckons. This could be for various reasons ranging from seeking greener pastures, experiencing something unfamiliar, learning new cultures, or finding love. Whatever the reason might be, travelling is a worthwhile venture.

The United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) estimated 25million international tourist arrivals in 1950; by 2018, the number increased to 1.4billion yearly. With these statistics, and with an increase in the number of travel agencies and independent tour guides globally, how sustainable has cultural tourism proven to be?

The average tourist seeks an authentic experience during a trip which could be cultural, religious, artistic, historical, or even traditional. Sadly, most travel agents miss out on tailoring client trips with these unique experiences in mind. For other agents, the difficulty lies in the inability to convince their clients to have these experiences. As most tourists seek fun-filled trips that expose them to shopping, mingling, or partying, less attention is paid to cultural tourism.

Cultural tourism - learning about Zulu Culture

The general lack of interest exhibited towards another country’s culture has made cultural tourism almost difficult to market. While some agents struggle with what cultural inclusions should make up a client’s itinerary, others focus only on selling cultural tourism to their clients through persuading them to “experience something new.”

What efforts have local communities made to improve Cultural Tourism?

The local communities have a huge role to play in regards to the preservation and promotion of their respective cultures. The next important question to ask then would be, what efforts have the communities made to drive cultural tourism home?

In previous years, communities have often made minimal efforts to preserve their culture, history or tradition – generally not intentionally, but more often because of a lack of understanding of their own cultures and traditions. It is important that communities are taught to value their culture and tradition and to preserve it, as it is these unique elements that are often the drawcard for tourists and add value to their trip.

If there is no preservation of culture, there can be no promotion of cultural tourism. Thankfully today, many communities and countries place a high priority on promoting their beautiful cultural features to draw in tourists from across the world. Some of these countries include South Africa, Kenya and Mauritius, with dedicated channels that showcase the country’s culture and beauty.

A Mosque in Ghana

What role do we all play in promoting Cultural Tourism?

Becoming globally-inclined is the first step in the promotion of cultural tourism. It is only when we develop more interest in travelling that we get the chance to enjoy significant cultural experiences of other countries.

What should we improve on?

Preventing cultural extinction should begin with educating our teenagers in schools and at home about their culture and the cultures of other countries. Additionally, more work should be done by tourism organisations, NGOs, and the media to create an awareness of the importance of different cultures and the value that it brings, not only to the individual, but to the community at large. By doing this people will desire to travel and to learn more and experience more while doing it.

Our culture defines us and gives us a unique identity. When it is lost, we lose a better part of ourselves.

Words – Itty Okopide / Images – Wikimedia, PxHere

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