chapter  5
20 Pages

The meanings, marketing, and management of heritage tourism in Southeast Asia


Heritage is critical to tourism, motivating travelers and forming a basis for industry products and services, and as well as being a key component in destination marketing campaigns. It represents economic capital but also has a social and political value that affects the ways in which it is experienced, interpreted, and presented to audiences who comprise both tourists and residents. There is scope for conflict, and the relationship between heritage and tourism may be a troubled one, although tourism can encourage an appreciation of heritage among all relevant parties and promote its conservation. The challenges of managing the heritage-tourism relationship and resol-

ving any tensions are influenced, and perhaps compounded, in certain countries by more general circumstances; this chapter examines conditions in Southeast Asia. The region has a wealth of heritage resources that constitute tourist attractions while often serving additional purposes. However, the merits of approaches toward their use and management are debatable and illustrate the difficulties of securing a satisfactory balance among alternative perspectives and competing interests. After an opening section that provides some background information about

Southeast Asian countries and summarizes their overall tourism performance and the part played by heritage, separate dimensions of heritage are explored. The focus is on socio-cultural, colonial, wartime, and political heritage with discussion also of formally designated heritage sites and broader conservation issues. A final conclusion reviews the material and highlights key points. Heritage emerges as a core tourism asset that has excellent prospects in Southeast Asia, although formidable obstacles will have to be addressed and overcome if it is to be successfully conserved and sustainably managed with particular risks of neglect, over-exploitation, degradation, and politicization.

Ten countries comprise the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) and exhibit diversity in terms of geography, history, and socio-economic

profile as disclosed by the statistics in Table 5.1. Political systems range from the “small autocratic sultanate” of Brunei (EIU 2007a: 4), through professed parliamentary democracies of assorted credibility and competence, to Vietnam and Laos, which remain firmly communist despite market reforms. With the exception of Brunei and Singapore, most are relatively poor and have only attained “medium human development” status according to a UN index, but there are contrasts in circumstances suggested by the ranking of Malaysia and Laos at 61 and 133 respectively (UNDP 2005). The region is prone to instability, aggravated by endemic corruption and poverty in some nations. Such features, together with recent terrorist activity, natural disasters, and health scares, have impacted negatively on both tourism and whole economies (EIU 2006, 2007a-i). Variations regarding tourism are revealed in Table 5.2, which lists interna-

tional arrivals for 2006 by state, from under a million in Laos and Myanmar/ Burma to over 10 million in Malaysia and Thailand. While forecasted growth

Table 5.1 ASEAN member country statistics