Being an architect and studying City Planning. I am intrigued by the relevance of historic cities as a resource to boost tourism in modern age. I would like to open a discussion on the impact of tourism as : A positive one, as it often leads to the conservation and the preservation of the historic monuments and sites. A negative one, as it does leads to the 'commodification' and commercialization of history and heritage.
I believe that this discussion is extremely significant as the use of historic cities as a tourism resource and hence an economic resource is a reality. And a discussion on the same is equally important to establish interest and noteworthy thought amongst architects, historians and planners.
For or Against: Heritage Tourism
Anjali, you pose a very important question and one that has been the subject
of conferences and goverment panels since the seventies. Some sites have experimented
with limited tourism with varying degrees of success. I think city governments
can learn from some of the successes of eco-tourism and wildlife tourism that
occurs in rainforests or in Africa. For instance, the limited tourism in Uganda
to see the last preserve of the mountain gorilla has raised funds to protect
these magnificent animals from poachers and from a shrinking habitat.
Limited tourism however limits sites and exploration of a civilisation and heritage
to the very wealthy. Then the histories of the people and civilisations will
always be written by those other than the people most affected by that history.
For instance, the foremost scholars of Islamic art and architecture do not come
from Muslim countries. We have given up the ability to speak about ourselves.
I recommend that you take a look at the work of the Historic
Cities Support Programme in Pakistan, Egypt, Syria, and Zanzibar. Some
of their projects can be found in the
Aga Khan Trust for Culturecollection in the Digital Library.
(Image of the Baltit Fort, Karimabad, Hunza, Pakistan, winner of the Top
Prize in British Airways Tourism for Tomorrow Awards)
For or Against: Heritage Tourism
Dear Shiraz, thank you for your response. Indeed the work of the Historic Cities
Support Program is very interesting. Furthermore, it introduces the concept of
'adaptive reuse' at the historic sites, which interests me greatly and is an important
issue in the discussion on Heritage Tourism.
To further this discussion, I would like to quote from His Highness the Aga
Khan's speech at the inauguration of the revitalized Humayun's Tomb gardens
in India: "Investing in cultural initiatives," said the Aga Khan, "represents
an opportunity to improve the quality of life for the people who live around these
remarkable inheritances of past great civilisations."
He was referring to the multiplier effect of ancillary economic activity, of enhanced
leisure space, increased tourism potential and educational benefits. Such a statement
is very encouraging, and represents the inherent relationship between the preservation
of historic sites, economic and social gains to the region and tourism. This lends
significant responsibility to the planner to design policies for tourism that
encourage Heritage preservation, but curb/avoid its exploitation at the same time.