Intangible cultural heritage and sustainable tourism resource development

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Arcodia, Charles

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Whitford, Michelle

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Intangible cultural heritage is representative of a community’s cultural authenticity and identity and includes oral traditions, performing arts, festive events or traditional craftsmanship which have been inherited over generations (UNESCO, 2003). Each culturally diverse community possesses its own unique and authentic intangible cultural heritage, which is not only an integral element of the soul of a community, but can be a vital resource for generating tourism at the national and local levels. There is little argument that intangible cultural heritage can provide a destination and/or community with a unique selling point and competitive advantage in the global marketplace. Intangible cultural heritage is experiential by nature, thus supports tourists in their desire to have a culturally authentic experience. In the process of commodification, however, intangible cultural heritage is transformed and staged too often and to varying degrees, which can lead to a loss of its authenticity (Alivizatou, 2012; Giudici, Melis, Dessi, & Ramos, 2013). Therefore, an approach facilitating intangible cultural heritage as a sustainable tourism resource is tenuous (WTO, 2012). Despite the increasing attention to intangible cultural heritage and the advice to adopt sustainable approach in the development of intangible cultural heritage as a tourism resource, little research has explored intangible cultural heritage from sustainability perspectives. Therefore, the purpose of this research is to investigate the extent to which the development of intangible cultural heritage facilitates the development of a sustainable tourism resource. To achieve this, the following three objectives were developed. First, to situate the sustainable tourism development literature within the context of intangible cultural heritage; second, to analyse public organisations’ documents in order to determine the extent to which they have facilitated the development of intangible cultural heritage as a sustainable tourism resource; and third, to establish a framework facilitating intangible cultural heritage as a sustainable tourism resource. This study adopted a single case study, with South Korea as a single representative case. A qualitative-dominant, mixed method approach was used in the process of data collection, analysis and interpretation. A total of 131 public documents from six public organisations were analysed for the second objective. Semi-structured face to face interviews were conducted with a total of 25 intangible cultural heritage practitioners and 22 locals; and questionnaires were given to 255 visitors at National Intangible Heritage Centre in Korea and then collected, to address the third objective. The critical interpretive analysis of 131 public documents revealed that overall, Korean public organisations’ goals and strategies have shown a propensity toward economic neoliberalism, mainly by regarding intangible cultural heritage tourism resources as economic tools. To a much lesser extent, they focus on social development such as ICH practitioners’ equity to participation in the decision-making process and/or intangible cultural heritage practitioners’ empowerment. The analysis of 47 interviews with intangible cultural heritage practitioners and locals, and of 255 questionnaires revealed that safeguarding intangible cultural heritage and developing its tourism role share a symbiotic relationship. This study presents a framework to facilitate the growth of the symbiotic relationships. The framework suggests, for the symbiotic relationship to be facilitated, a top-down approach blended with a bottom up approach, cooperation between stakeholders, and entrepreneurship are necessary. This research addresses a gap in the literature and provides the practical understanding of intangible cultural heritage development. The exploratory research on intangible cultural heritage provides a much-needed framework for intangible cultural heritage to be a sustainable tourism resource, which can be groundwork for future academic research. Moreover, the project offers valuable insight into the combination of various intangible cultural heritage development strategies within one destination (i.e., South Korea), in order to reduce overlapping efforts by stakeholders in South Korea and maximise synergies to facilitate a greater range of positive impacts on the development of intangible cultural heritage for communities.

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Thesis (PhD Doctorate)

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Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Dept Tourism, Sport & Hot Mgmt

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The author owns the copyright in this thesis, unless stated otherwise.

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Sustainable tourism

Resource development

Cultural heritage

South Korea

Social development

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