Earlier units have discussed the definition and issues associated with tourism from an anthropological perspective. But just to recapitulate, tourism focuses on historical sites, artistic lifestyle, heritage, experience, cultural environments, visual and performing arts, museums, music, and theatre. Cultural tourism involves soaking in the indigenous atmosphere, visiting historic and religious monuments and ruins, and even rural and village countryside. 

Heritage is an important dimension covered in tourism. In general, heritage refers to those aspects of culture that have been inherited from the past and has historical value. In this respect heritage is a gift from past generations to future generations. In the case of families, heritage can be property such as an old and historical house, possessions such as heirloom furniture, jewels, and traditions such as a particular ritual or a ceremony. While speaking of a country’s heritage, we refer to its history, culture, and achievements. For example, the heritage of India includes its places of worship, monuments such as the Jama Masjid and Taj Mahal; temples, and sites such as Konark. 

The historic battlefields such as Kurukshetra and Panipat and museums made in honor of great religious, social, and political leaders such as the Gandhi Museum and Rajghat are also a part of our heritage. Any tourist coming to India aspires to see at least some of these sites. In this unit, we would discuss the relationship between tourism and heritage sites.


Essentially in tourism, the term Heritage has come to mean landscapes, natural history buildings, artifacts, and cultural traditions that are either literally or metaphorically passed on from one generation to the other. Heritage is not homogenous. It exists at different levels – global, national, regional, and local. Heritage has the dual character of being subjective, personal, and emotional and at the same time being objective and functional. 

For example, while the Jagannath Puri temple is a heritage site for a foreign tourist who looks upon it as a relic of an ancient culture, to the Hindu devotees it is a place of Bhakti or devotion and at the personal level for a person who is a devotee of the particular deity, it is the place for the fulfillment of emotional needs and desires. In this way heritage also means different things to the various sectors of the tourism industry. Although different people may come with different perceptions and intents, the heritage sites are the core product and remain at the center of attraction. No matter what may be the subjective and emotional relationship that a visitor may have to a site, for the tourism industry, and to tour operators, it is a commodity to be sold. There is an instrumental relationship between a product and its price

Cultural Heritage is an expression of the ways of living developed by a community and passed on from generation to generation, including customs, practices, places, objects, artistic expansions, and values. Cultural forms reflect and shape the values, beliefs, and aspirations of a people. 

Iconic cultural items and collective ceremonials often define and symbolize a nation’s identity. Preservation of cultural heritage is one of the ways in which collective memories are kept alive and collective identities such as that of a nation are both maintained and also constructed. Museums such as that of the Jewish museum in Warsaw, is a continued icon not only of Jewish identity but also of their history and their collective suffering. Similarly, the Red Fort is both a symbol of past history as well as a symbol of the nation as it is at present. Cultural celebrations reinforce the social solidarity and bonding and sense of belongingness of the people of a community, group and larger entities like nations. 


UNESCO’s protection of World Heritage Sites was inaugurated by the Convention concerning the protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage, commonly known as the World Heritage Convention (UNESCO 1972), which elevated national symbols into items of ‘outstanding universal value’ and property of all mankind, thereby corroborating an essentialist view of the past (Paganoni 2015b c.f. Griffiths and Barbour 2016). 

As per the convention guidelines, there was a change in the approach, that included “expanding the meaning of heritage from the protection of historic buildings and monuments towards a more general understanding of the wider context and preservation of tangible and intangible cultural forms” (Griffiths and Barbour 2016). The World Heritage Committee’s thus decided to include cultural landscapes in the World Heritage List (UNESCO 1992). In the Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage (UNESCO 2003) the inclusion of the notion of ‘cultural landscape’ in the understanding of the World Heritage sites allows diverse possible interactions between people and the natural environment took place. 

The concept of the cultural landscape takes a holistic view of culture that includes not just the monument or building but the entire narrative that surrounds it. For example, there are tours popularly known as ‘Heritage Walks’ that recreate ancient routes like the Silk Route or take people through lanes and by lanes of an old city, like Chandni Chowk in Old Delhi, where every step tells a story. Quite often these include not only sights but smells and food as well. The conference on Cultural Heritage Tourism and Regional Development (1991) emphasized that cultural heritage tourism means the enrichment of aesthetic and effective experiences of the quality of life. 

By the activities promoting heritage tourism – there may be enhancement of the resources of the local areas, preservation of the total physical setting and associated rituals and activities of cultural importance, support and encouragement is given to local musicians and artists, there is the development of heritage museums and galleries and enrichment of the material culture that supports them. Revitalization of local music, dance and festivals are also a part of heritage development. As of the year 2020, 157 countries are a part of the world heritage convention of 1972 (Protecting the world’s Cultural and natural heritage) and 590 sites are inscribed in the UNESCO’s World Heritage first list UNESCO WORLD HERITAGE sites ( mode=list).

World Heritage Sites: A Brief History The term World Heritage sites refer to those treasures of the past and wonders of nature that are so unique that all the nations of the world have a duty to protect them, irrespective of the country they are located in. The world Heritage sites reflect the cultural and natural wealth and diversity of our planet. The UNESCO World Heritage Center was born by merging two separate movements. The first was for the preservation of cultural sites. The second was a movement that dealt with the conservation of nature. The first movement started with the decision to build the Aswan High Dam in Egypt. 

This Dam would have flooded the valley where Abu Simbel temple was located. In 1959, UNESCO launched a campaign to safeguard these temples. Fifty (50) countries got together and this organization was born. In 1972 the World Heritage fund was created to assist nations in identifying, preserving, and promoting world Heritage sites. Contributions are both compulsory as well as voluntary. There is a process by which a site becomes a World Heritage site. One of the important aspects is that for a space to be declared a World Heritage site, it must be located within the boundaries of these countries that have signed the world heritage convention (

India and World Heritage Sites Each of India’s ancient, historic monuments is a window to the rich heritage of its past. Our first Prime minister J.L. Nehru expressed this opinion about such great sites, “At Sarnath, near Benares, I could almost see the Buddha preaching his first sermon and some of his recorded words would come like an indistinct echo to me through 2500 years. Ashoka’s pillars of stone, with their inscriptions, would speak to me in their magnificent language and tell me of a man, who though an emperor, was greater than any king or emperor”. With reference to Nehru’s take on India and tourism, one also finds another area that attracts visitors.

‘India is one of the earliest cradles of civilization and the function head of religion and philosophy. It has much to offer by way of spiritual and mental rejuvenation in this material world. Philosophy meditation, yoga, Ayurveda, physical and mental healing, and contact with ancient traditions and systems make India an outstanding attractive destination, mysticism, and history will always fascinate serious mended tourists rather than luxury or leisure travel’. Ajanta and Ellora Caves of Maharashtra, Agra Fort and Taj Mahal of Uttar Pradesh, Sun Temple of Konark, Kaziranga National Park and Manas Wildlife Sanctuary of Assam, Rock shelters of Bhimbetka, Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus Mumbai, etc., are some of the sites that are listed in the World Heritage UNESCO list. India has a total of thirty-seven (needs confirmation and reference) sites recognized as World Heritage sites by UNESCO as of the year 2020. The fact to be noted here is that there are different varieties of monuments, buildings, and national parks that have been listed. 

Characteristics of Cultural Heritage Tourism Management and Cultural Heritage Tourism in India

D.G. UNESCO stated that ‘world Heritage sites have no doubt become a tourist attraction and form the backbone of the tourism industry. Without cultural heritage, there would be no tourism as it is intrinsically linked to the heritage of humanity and the future of each depends on the other’. Today, even in the field of tourism most countries have decided and developed strategies to complement each other rather than compete with their neighbors in order to gain larger revenues from tourism. For example, Singapore and Malaysia have joined hands to offer a comprehensive package to tourists, cultural heritage tourism management deals with the challenges in the field of cultural heritage and tourism and integration of these as a concept of Culture Heritage Tourism Management (CHTM). 

The International Charter of Cultural Tourism (18th Draft ICOMOS, October 1999) has structured principles governing International Cultural Tourism. The principles of cultural heritage tourism adequately highlight the importance of cultural heritage, host community, expectations of visitors and their code of conduct, and responsibilities of travel and tourism agencies to operate within the socio-cultural sensitivities of the destinations, thereby providing valuable insights. Now let us take these aspects forward in the next section and see how anthropologists have studied the conservation and preservation of heritage sites with a case study in the next section. 


Taj Mahal

In the Indian context when we discuss heritage sites, the Taj Mahal is one of the most visited and universally known places. Begley, 1979 stated that the Taj Mahal has been described as a “teardrop on the cheek of time” by Nobel Prize-winning poet Rabindranath Tagore, while world traveler Eleanor Roosevelt felt that its white marble “symbolizes the purity of real love.” Both of these statements hint at the romanticism of the mausoleum that was built by Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan (1592-1666) in memory of his beloved wife Mumtaz Mahal. 

Koch (2005), explains that Shah Jahan’s early historian Muhammad Amin Qazwini had given a beautiful description of the monument in the 1630s as a mark of the power of the Mughal empire. The mausoleum is not only a magnificent burial place for Shah Jahan’s beloved wife Mumtaz Mahal but is also a testimony to the power and glory of the emperor for posterity as stated by the emperor’s main historian Abd al-Hamid Lahavri in his work. Even today, it is one of the world's most visited sites in terms of tourism that earns revenues. However, for the local people, it would have never had any significance if it were not for the praise and importance showered on it by the outsiders. 

For the indigenous population, it is a tomb and only the mosque inside it had a religious Emerging Trends in Anthropology and Tourism 93 significance. Its aesthetic appeal to the western world has pushed it to be a major attraction and a money spinner for the tourist industry. The Taj is an example of how the same cultural item can be looked upon from various perspectives. To the tourism industry, it is a money-making product. To the local villagers and townspeople, it is a tomb. For some within the Indian subcontinent, it is a sore thumb, a constant reminder of the glorious Islamic past, to the faithful Muslims, it is a place of worship. 

Again, some see it as a mockery of the love of the poor people who cannot afford to build such magnificent monuments for their beloved. Therefore, most historical monuments may have polysemic meanings depending upon the platform of the viewer. Thus, when a monument is considered a global heritage, then it also needs to be made a symbol of some universal value. The Taj for example is projected as a monument that epitomizes romantic love, which is viewed as a universal value. It is for this reason that places of historic importance are mostly taken over by the respective states or by a global body like UNESCO so that they are no longer associated with any particularistic value system. For example, the presence of the mosque inside the Taj Mahal is usually downplayed to the tourists. The Taj is similarly upheld as a national heritage delinking it from its Islamic roots. 

Preservation and Conservation of the Taj Mahal At present the Taj Mahal listed as a World Heritage site is a National property of India and is being maintained by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), a department of Culture. The preservation and conservation of the monument is being done by the ASI. In order to maintain the monument certain code of conduct has been assigned by the ASI so as to preserve the almost 350 years old monument. The monument of international repute in the last decades had faced the issue of discoloring of the marbles owning to high pollution levels, thus, a buffer zone was created within a 2 km radius of the Taj where no vehicles are allowed. In other words, heritage sites such as the Taj, or the Niagra Falls or the Statue of Liberty, transcend their real and localized values, to become what is known as a national symbol or in terms of what Sherry Ortner has referred to as a Key Symbol.


McKercher and Du Cros reported that the public interest in rock art tourism has risen over the past three decades in tandem with the worldwide increase in cultural tourism that is estimated at more than 240 million international travelers in a year. This surge in rock art tourism across the globe raises questions about the conservation and preservation of the sites. Deacon, states that “policies and guidelines have been developed for cultural heritage and cultural tourism and there is a widely accepted range of principles in place, but a theory of sustainable rock art tourism is only in its infancy”. Research on the interaction and movement of tourists and the long-term effects on the rock paintings and engravings in their original setting, as well as consideration of social and economic factors that drive tourism and the public interest in rock art needs to be focused upon. 

In this regard, Deacon had commented that education of the tourist is one of the steps with regards to rock art conservation and preservation. This aspect is crucial as any damage to the site is not repairable. Therefore, one is faced with the issue of contradiction between the preservation of a scientifically important site like a cave painting and its commodification to raise money. It is ironic that the money earned from tourists is mostly used for the conservation and preservation of heritage sites, yet in some cases, the fragile nature of the sites, primarily the rock art sites, is open to damage by these very acts of tourism. Conservation and preservation of heritage sites are of paramount importance for the sake of science as academic work. 

In India, the Bhimbetka rock shelter in Madhya Pradesh was the home of the early man. The rock shelters through the art and paintings engraved on the walls of the caves depict the lives of prehistoric human beings. The time period spans from the Paleolithic to the Mesolithic era. Today, this site is one of the major tourist attractions and is visited by thousands of tourists every year. The question that arises now is about the necessity or importance of keeping these relics from the past. These rock shelters today have numerous visitors and this can have an impact that would lead to wear and tear. If the art is being touched by visitors it would lead to wearing off and loss of precious art that is presently a window into the past. 

In order to maintain the sanctity of the place and keep the art from perishing, the principles for cultural tourism management need to be followed, which came up as a result of international agreement on guidelines for World Heritage sites (UNESCO, 2001). In the Indian context, the heritage sites that have been identified and recognized as World Heritage Sites are being looked after by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI). The restoration, conservation, and preservation of heritage sites are being directly managed by ASI. The ASI issues guidelines that are posted and widely circulated around the heritage sites. As we had seen in the case of the Taj Mahal based on the requirement of the site, the measures are developed by the ASI. In case of the Bhimbehka site barriers are posted around the areas where the cave art is found. Beyond a certain area visitors’ are not allowed. A safe distance is maintained between the rock art and the tourists.


Natural versus Heritage - Many studies on tourism and heritage sites have reflected on the fact that the very definition of Heritage sites according to UNESCO has led to major issues in the conservation and preservation of the sites declared as both natural and heritage. Michel-Rolph Trouillot in his work Silencing the Past observes that ‘any historical narrative is a bundle of silences’. This statement reflects on the actively manufactured absences in the reproduction of historical facts. Delancy has stated “Heritage, being a past legacy in the present, has taken shape in much the same way as historical production. Persons in positions of power have attributed significance to tangible and intangible representations of narratives that privilege their position and establish hegemony”. In this regard, he quotes the Authorised Heritage Discourse (AHD), as coined by Australian author and heritage worker Laurajane Smith, this gives credence to epistemologies of dominant societies leading to top-down legacies. 

Delancy, in his work History to Heritage: An Assessment of Tarpum Bay, Eleuthera, the Bahamas had taken up the voices of the Bahamian community of Tarpum Bay. Delancy, described the history and heritage of the locals as they wanted it to be understood and preserved. His work was in defiance of the dominant narratives of the Bahamas derived from colonial records of Great Britain and influences from the United States. His work pursued to understand the history and heritage of the Bahamian community of Tarpum Bay, thus, preserving the heritage as the locals’ everyday life rather than as a part of Tourism activities.

Heritage versus Local Culture - Christina and Svensson (2018), in their study of the Tibetan village in the Meili Snow Mountains, which is part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site Three Parallel Rivers had shown the complexity in the interplay and artificial distinction between natural and cultural heritage in UNESCO’s work and its impact on the local Tibetan community. 

The mountains are listed only as a natural heritage site, although they are sacred to the Tibetans. The new heritage status ignores the mountain's long-standing cultural significance and meaning for the local community. The listing and natural park status are also problematic since it seems to favor tourists’ experiences at the expense of local communities' participation in and management of the area . As part of its natural heritage, the site of the mountain has been recognized by UNSECO, however, the culture of the local Tibetan people residing there is not a part of the UNESCO World Heritage list. 

This has led to a threat to the culture of the Tibetan people, as the site is being developed with the interest of the Tourists in mind rather than preserving the culture of the local people, a fact that many scholars, activists, and the Dalai Lama regard it as being a threat. The development of Tourism in this site has even led to a name change of Zhongdian town to Shangri-la and the nomination of Meili Snow Mountains as part of World Natural Heritage. The policies concerning the development of heritage tourism influenced the villagers’ conception of their heritage and identity. Even, though, heritage tourism has brought many benefits (mostly economic and infrastructural) to the locals, it has eroded the culture of the local people.

Local Environment versus Tourist - Tourism brings in revenues but is accompanied by a host of problems. Alongside other types of pollution, India can now add one more category to its pollution worries – beach pollution. Tourism is the biggest culprit contributing to plastic litter on beaches, according to a study conducted by the National Centre for Coastal Research (NCCR) (Singh 2018). As we had seen in the earlier examples too, air pollution is a major concern when it comes to heritage sites like the Taj Mahal. But in the case of the Taj, tourism actually saved it, as the air pollution from nearby factories was hurting the color of the marble, but concerns about tourism and the fact it is now regarded as a national treasure led to action to prevent the pollution from reaching the monument. On the other hand, the rock shelters of Bhimbetka are also threatened as numerous tourist visits endanger the art on the cave walls. 

The beaches too are being dumped with waste material, leading to the loss of some of the precious underwater lives (sea and ocean) because of pollution and water contamination. It is worth noting here that tourism has also affected the cultural heritage of human societies, leading to displacement and relocation of local communities. Vasan has stated that while the “International Union for Conversation of Nature (IUCN) declares that the creation of protected areas should not adversely affect local communities, in densely populated regions such as South Asia, most protected areas are embedded in landscapes that have been inhabited by humans for millennia”. Wildlife sanctuaries, nature walks, and forest reserves are some of the spaces that have come under the influence of tourism. These sites, earlier home for many human communities have now become restricted sites, leading to the locals having to part way with their lifestyles that had earlier centered around the forest.

For example, for the creation of the Sariska Tiger Reserve for the protection and preservation of tigers, many local villages had to be uprooted and relocated. Most of these displaced communities that have been relocated have lost their indigenous culture and folkways. In India, several national parks continue to be sites of violent confrontations, both between humans and wildlife and between so-called encroachers and enforcers. McRae argues that because many tourists travel to experience the lives and cultures of other people, travelers develop preconceived perceptions of what they are expecting (2003). To satisfy these, tourists, alterations are made to the culture of the destination countries. The constant pressures of change can have negative effects on individuals’ habits, routines, social lives, beliefs, and values.

Discuss Question

1. Define heritage.

2. What is cultural heritage?

3. How many countries are part of the World Heritage Convention as of today? 

4. List some of the objects that can be part of the heritage?

5. How has the Taj been symbolized by different categories of people? Write in brief. 

6. Which government organization is responsible for the conservation and preservation of monuments in India? Emerging Trends in Anthropology and Tourism.

7. What is a key symbol?

8. Discuss the challenges of the Bhimbetka rock shelters from a tourism perspective?

9. “Developing a heritage site can have an impact on the local culture”. State whether this statement is true or false.

10. Examine some of the impacts on the local culture owing to the development of tourism. 

11. “Tourism affects local environment”. State whether the following statement is true or false.

12. Discuss the changes in the local environment and communities due to tourism. 

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