Topic for Debate
For or Against: Heritage Tourism
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.
Anjali Agarwal
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 Culture collection in the Digital Library.

(Image of the Baltit Fort, Karimabad, Hunza, Pakistan, winner of the Top Prize in British Airways Tourism for Tomorrow Awards)

Shiraz Allibhai
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.
Anjali Agarwal


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