Operational management of cultural and heritage sites

Operational management
of cultural and
heritage sites
Harry Coccossis
● ● ● ●
Leslie, D., & Sigala, M. (2005). International cultural tourism : Management, implications and cases. Retrieved from http://ebookcentral.proquest.com
Created from fhsu on 2020-01-16 13:47:43.
Copyright © 2005. Routledge. All rights reserved.
History, culture and religion constitute significant elements of
tourism. Millions of tourists in any one year visit historic centres,
temples and places of unique cultural value. Many of
these major cultural attractions are located in close proximity
to, or within, large urban centres. In general terms, this could
be considered ‘mass tourism’, which reflects the high numbers
of visitors to cultural and heritage sites; often for little more
than a short stay or brief excursion. This pattern of visitation
creates pressures that need to be managed effectively, taking
into consideration the visitor experience and the capacity of
local systems to support such pressures (Garrod and Fyall,
2000). These two areas are explored below. The constraints of
space preclude detailed analysis of the varied forms of cultural
tourism and associated sites; to an extent this is well illustrated
by the cases encompassed within this text. The approach
taken is to focus more on those generic aspects of operational
management that may vary according to the type, or more
appropriately perhaps, the site, of cultural attraction. In the
process, the aim is to highlight key issues and potential management
responses, which complement or are developed in the
case studies that follow in this section.
Site typology and characteristics
Any typology of cultural tourism destinations or attractions
will be both diverse and potentially very extensive depending
on the degree of categorization used and the level of detail
required. However, in this context, a broad approach is adopted
based on three general categories, namely, historic towns
and cities, ancient and historic sites, and festivals. In terms of
tourism, the operational management of these sites has to
address similar opportunities and challenges, but their significance
will vary according to the characteristics specific to a particular
category and thus the management planning and
development of the site will vary in approach.
Historic towns and cities
Tourists are attracted to historic towns and cities for diverse reasons;
for example, the built heritage, cultural traditions and
events, and the urban amenities. Furthermore, a city may offer
widespread attractions and create new ones through urban
regeneration to promote tourism and encourage the wider
dispersal of tourists. This is well illustrated by Barcelona’s Port Vell,
International Cultural Tourism: management, implications and cases
● ● ● ● 54
Leslie, D., & Sigala, M. (2005). International cultural tourism : Management, implications and cases. Retrieved from http://ebookcentral.proquest.com
Created from fhsu on 2020-01-16 13:47:43.
Copyright © 2005. Routledge. All rights reserved.
where a former ‘harbour arm’ has been transformed into a
tourist destination. Each year they receive a large proportion of
the world’s tourist flows (Walton, 2000). These visitor destinations
are often densely populated, the home of vibrant communities
and centres of activity and transport hubs. Major cities
may have the infrastructure to absorb high-volume tourism,
coupled with transport systems generally able to deliver
people into the heart and/or other parts of the city. Conversely,
in small historic towns a concentration of tourists can lead to
environmental management problems such as congestion,
noise and pollution. Tourist flows into these areas can impact
on the general day-to-day functions, creating conflicts between
tourism and the dynamics of the city, threatening both tourism
development and the socioeconomic structure of the settlement
(van der Borg et al., 1996). Thus, tourism may engender
conflicts between visitors and the local population and impact
on urban management capability and urban structure. The
management of these conflicts becomes of the utmost importance
to ensure the conservation of these sites along with their
socioeconomic development, in which tourism can play a
significant role (van der Borg, 2004; Russo, 2002).
Archaeological sites, monuments and temples
This type of cultural tourism attraction evidences a diverse range
of sites. They may be isolated (e.g. Stonehenge) or within a wider
site (e.g. the Acropolis in Athens or Templo Mayor in Mexico), in
private or public ownership, and may or may not charge an
entrance fee. Visitor numbers vary with their importance and
historical recognition as well as in terms of scale and accessibility.
Festivals are characterized by the arrival of visitors in a defined
period, generally in a restricted area, to participate in an event
of a particular nature. They range in scale from a local community
gala drawing relatively few visitors, through concerts and
theatre festivals, to religious events such as the Maria festival
in Coto Doñana, and art festivals e.g. Biennale, Cannes, which
may attract many thousands of visitors. They can be one-off
events or more regular, e.g. annual. The staging of festivals
needs to be compatible with site preservation and protection
and with respect for the aesthetic, historical and scientific
integrity of the place by following existing regulations for the
site or establishing and applying site-specific regulations.
Operational management of cultural and heritage sites
55 ● ● ● ● Leslie, D., & Sigala, M. (2005). International cultural tourism : Management, implications and cases. Retrieved from http://ebookcentral.proquest.com
Created from fhsu on 2020-01-16 13:47:43.
Copyright © 2005. Routledge. All rights reserved.
The visitor experience
Visitor satisfaction depends on a diverse range of factors, from
the site of interest and the quality of services provided to the
facilities available and, indeed, the number of visitors. The
visitor experience and satisfaction also depend on personal
expectations and the anticipated outcomes of the visit (Vittersø
et al., 2000). As such, there are potentially variable visitor needs
and requirements, which create different management opportunities;
for example, the management of a particular site on the
basis of their philosophy and objectives may decide to satisfy
the expectations of some particular categories of visitors, while
denying satisfying other groups’ expectations. Hence, a knowledge
and understanding of visitor profiles, preferences and
needs is invaluable in the setting of objectives for the infrastructure,
staffing needs and education and interpretation programmes
of the site (Chaplin, 2003). These aspects, along with
the characteristics and assets of the site, will influence the visitor’s
experience. While the expectations of the visitor are often
related to the importance of the site, there are several more
widely applicable factors that are generic to all cultural attractions,
such as management planning and development, access
and assets; all of which can contribute to enriching the visitor’s
experience or fall short of his or her expectations. Furthermore,
the general condition of the site and thus maintenance and
cleanliness of the site, facilities and services will contribute to
perceptions of the site’s management and organization, and to
making the visit a more enjoyable experience. The adoption of
best practice in these areas is axiomatic. Therefore, the operational
aspects attended to here are heritage interpretation and
education, facilities and services, followed by a consideration of
wider, more general factors.
Heritage interpretation and education
Heritage interpretation and education programmes are an
important part of any visitor management plan. These programmes
should communicate particular themes and ideas
that accord with the aims of the general visitor management
plan (Glasson et al., 1995; Moscardo, 1996). To evaluate the
success of visitor interpretation and education programmes,
visitor surveys should be conducted periodically to assess
visitor satisfaction and provide input for readjusting the visitor
management plan.
To be highly effective, a variety of media for site interpretation
and education should be chosen with the intention of
International Cultural Tourism: management, implications and cases
● ● ● ● 56
Leslie, D., & Sigala, M. (2005). International cultural tourism : Management, implications and cases. Retrieved from http://ebookcentral.proquest.com
Created from fhsu on 2020-01-16 13:47:43.
Copyright © 2005. Routledge. All rights reserved.
making the visit as enjoyable and informative as possible. Due
consideration should be given to the needs of different categories
of visitor, e.g. scholars, schoolchildren and the general
public, as well as providing information in different languages
according to the provenance of the major visitor markets.
Signage should be complementary to interpretation, possibly
integrated at times where appropriate. It should be well

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