chapter  4
16 Pages

Branding Copán: valuing cultural distinction in an archaeological tourism destination: Lena Mortensen

Nearly 30 years ago, in a book of the same title, Lowenthal elaborated the idea that the ‘past is a foreign country’ and, more specifically, ‘the foreign country with the healthiest tourist trade of all’ (1986, p. 4). Today, the substance of Lowenthal’s analysis holds strong: the business of touring the past has moved to encompass nearly every historical period and spatial corner, and heritage tourism is at an all-time high in popularity. The past in this sense functions as a generic reference to destinations framed in temporal terms, and, as destinations, the market value of such places continues to expand (Dallen & Boyd, 2006). Part of what makes this market sector so economically productive is the potent combination of other forms of value (e.g. symbolic, aesthetic, atmospheric, emotional) expressed through destinations based around heritage, historic, and archaeological qualities, resulting in something of an enchanted mix that occupies the attention of heritage managers, marketing professionals, and community developers alike (Smith, Messenger, & Soderland, 2010). The functional work of negotiating such incongruent value bundles, often realized through exchanges that rely on distinct but overlapping regimes of evaluation (Appadurai, 1994), raises questions concerning how value itself is calculated, mobilized, and transformed through tourism and its extensions in wider social fields.