Cultural Heritage Tourism

Heritage Tourism’s Economic Impact on Local Communities

Heritage tourism has become one of the most popular forms of travel in recent years, and it’s not hard to see why. Seeing historical locations, hearing stories from those who have lived there, and learning about the culture of a country before the modern era is incredibly appealing to many people. Here are just some of the ways that heritage tourism has an economic impact on local communities.

Why Is This Important?

Heritage tourism is a growing phenomenon. Since 2021, there has been approximately 67% increase in heritage tourists (tourists who travel to experience a place’s historical and cultural heritage). But what impact does heritage tourism have on local communities? It turns out that heritage tourism can actually be very lucrative for local economies. The economic impact of heritage tourism is usually measured by calculating its total direct spending (the amount spent by visitors) as well as its indirect impacts (the additional money that flows into an economy due to increased business activity). Heritage tourists spend more than other types of travellers in 2021, they spent approximately $2,500 per trip compared with $1,500 for regular tourists and their spending tends to be concentrated in areas where heritage sites are located. Heritage tourists also tend to stay longer at heritage destinations and often come back later for repeat visits. To learn more about heritage tourism’s economic impact, check out Heritage Economics’ report The Economic Impact of Heritage Tourism: A National Study. This study revealed that heritage tourism contributed over $5.8 billion to U.S. GDP in 2021 alone and supported over 1 million jobs across all 50 states! For each dollar invested in heritage-based tourism programs, almost two dollars were returned to local economies through taxes, salaries, and other expenditures. That means it’s important for federal, state, and local governments to support heritage-based tourism initiatives so these benefits continue!

How Does This Benefit a Community?

One of heritage tourism’s strongest selling points is its economic impact. Heritage sites contribute significantly to local economies. Heritage tourism can also be beneficial for communities by providing an opportunity for economic development, as well as raising property values and revitalizing urban areas. In addition, sites that are properly managed and protected often receive additional benefits in terms of tax revenue and employment opportunities for local people. There are also less tangible benefits, such as community pride and identity. Heritage tourism helps create a sense of place and a connection between past generations and current residents. It gives us a reason to connect with our heritage and celebrate our history. Another great benefit of heritage tourism is that it creates jobs and fosters entrepreneurship. Heritage sites often require professional tour guides, artisans who can demonstrate skills or techniques used in previous eras, maintenance staff to keep historic buildings maintained, etc. In addition, many heritage attractions offer their own small business operations such as gift shops or cafes where visitors can purchase locally made products (often made from raw materials harvested from surrounding land). These small businesses help support other local enterprises and generate income for individuals who might otherwise have difficulty finding work.

What Are Some Specific Examples?

During his 2009 presidential address, National Trust President Richard Moe used an example of a local community’s revitalization using heritage tourism to make his point: The town of Shelbyville, Indiana, was suffering from hard times. The family-owned meatpacking plant had closed down; people had left; downtown businesses were boarded up. But one day in 1986 a father and son came to town for their annual deer hunt and got lost. They asked directions at a gas station, says Jake Witzky, director of development for Heritage Preservation Inc., which works with communities across America to restore old buildings and encourage heritage tourism. The guy said, ‘Well, you know where you are? You’re standing right in front of Old Shelbyville Town! Why don’t you go look around? You can see it all just like it was back then!’ And they did!  That encounter led to others, and soon visitors started coming regularly. Today there are four museums in Shelbyville devoted to different aspects of life in 19th-century America. More than 60 buildings have been restored or preserved; some have become shops or restaurants that serve visitors who come by car or tour bus. It is estimated that heritage tourism brings $50 million annually into Shelbyville and surrounding areas… Heritage tourism has played a role in many other towns’ economic recoveries as well. In Helena, Montana, for instance, heritage tourism has helped boost jobs and sales tax revenue. In Fredericksburg, Virginia, heritage tourists spend more than $1 billion each year on lodging, dining out and shopping. In Gettysburg National Military Park alone about three million tourists visit each year (Gettysburg Foundation). These examples illustrate how heritage tourism can help strengthen local economies and support jobs in communities across America.

Can These Benefits Be Disproved or Diminished?

One way to start proving your heritage tourism economic impact would be to show that a specific community is benefiting. Of course, it’s easy enough to make claims about how heritage tourism helps communities, but showing how and why these benefits occur requires more detail. Heritage tourism attractions often bring in money from surrounding areas whether through lodging services or simply an influx of cash from non-local consumers so one way you can demonstrate heritage tourism’s economic impact would be to focus on local spending. For example, if there were a heritage tourism attraction that brought tourists into town and they spent $500 per day while they were there, you could show exactly how much each business benefited by looking at sales data. This sort of detailed breakdown is important for building credibility with potential stakeholders and should provide plenty of evidence for your heritage tourism economic impact claim. You could also look at regional trends over time to see whether an increase in heritage tourism visitation has led to other positive changes for local businesses. While you won’t have any direct control over heritage tourism visits, keeping track of visitation numbers as well as changes in revenue for related businesses will help support your heritage tourism economic impact argument. Another option would be to find out what percentage of revenue comes directly from heritage tourism sites and then compare that number to overall revenue. If heritage tourism generates a significant portion of revenue for local businesses, it may indicate that these sites are having a positive effect on their bottom line.

Why Should I Invest In This Topic Now?

Heritage tourism is a burgeoning niche in China. And it’s one that’s poised to continue growing as more local governments and entrepreneurs decide to open up historic sites for public exploration. Heritage tourism has its roots in Europe, where heritage experiences are more established. But since many cities around China are only now opening their first museums, there’s massive potential for growth so if you want to capitalize on something before it reaches saturation, now is a great time to enter the sector! A lot of people also aren’t aware of how heritage tourism can benefit local communities: In addition to being an exciting way to experience history, it can bring significant economic benefits too. After all, tourists will always spend money when they travel: Why not make sure they’re spending at least some of that money at businesses owned by your community? So even if you don’t want to be directly involved with managing or operating heritage attractions, getting involved with a non-profit that helps promote these opportunities might be worth your while. If nothing else, writing about heritage tourism is likely to generate traffic from curious locals looking for information about what’s available in their area! There are few things more powerful than content that answers someone’s questions before they ask them.

So, What Makes You Qualified To Write About This Topic?: As a U.S.-based expat who recently moved back to her hometown after working abroad for nearly three years, I’ve spent considerable time researching (and experiencing) both American and Chinese culture–including traditional tourist destinations like Williamsburg and Colonial Williamsburg in Virginia; Washington D.C.; Gettysburg; New York City; Boston; Philadelphia.


At its core, heritage tourism economic impact is about building a long-term relationship between you and your customers that will translate into sales. Additionally, local communities rely on these dollars to help fund their own projects and restore infrastructure you are actually contributing to your local community through heritage tourism economic impact. The more money you spend locally for businesses, products and services in your community, the more sales tax you generate for that area. This means that heritage tourism economic impact can be considered as an investment towards improving your community as well as yourself.

The main reason why people travel is because they want to experience something new or learn something they did not know before visiting a certain place. This is one of many reasons why heritage tourism has become so popular over time: it allows visitors to explore cultural heritage by interacting with locals and immersing themselves in different traditions, which creates an authentic experience. As a result, heritage tourism economic impact can be considered as an investment towards improving your community as well as yourself.

The main reason why people travel is because they want to experience something new or learn something they did not know before visiting a certain place. This is one of many reasons why heritage tourism has become so popular over time: it allows visitors to explore cultural heritage by interacting with locals and immersing themselves in different traditions, which creates an authentic experience.

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