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Cultural Heritage and History in Tourism

There is an unbreakable bound between Culture, Heritage and History, manifested in a single, but very complex concept of cultural tourism. It is one of the oldest forms of travelling, considered by many, the very core of tourism industry. History and Heritage are disciplines with a strong track record of research and authorship both in Portugal and in Europe. They represent contemporary topics that are being given deserved attention and consideration, since not only they are endangered as a result of socio-economic and political conflicts and interests, massification and globalization, but some of them even raise questions of authenticity and originality. Without any doubt, the issues related to culture, history and heritage always reside in the greater interest and support for many different social sciences. Consequently, the topics within the domain of cultural heritage and history in tourism and its elements that are of focal interest to this research centre are discussed as follows:

 

Quality Models in Heritage Management

The regional development policies and tourism development are characterized by an integrated approach. The policies and practices of cultural resource management undertake an important role in both contexts. The definition of quality standards of this quality management, the dimensions considered and the continuous improvement areas are still poorly or not at all explored from a scientific perspective. This is why we propose ourselves as pioneers in this aim.

 

Language, Diversity and Identity

Language plays a key role in promoting intercultural communication, contributing to the reduction of stereotypes and prejudices, thus bringing closer together different cultures. In this sense, it is urgent to establish cultural contacts through tourism, in order to enhance heritage awareness and appreciation, language learning and intercultural exchange, contributing to the world peace. As for identity, it can be interpreted as a fusion of complex physical, intellectual and phenomenological relations between people’s place of residence and the specificity of their culture, which has inevitable impacts on tourism tendencies. Tourism as a phenomenon can be seen as a promoter, unifier and integrator of cultural representations of the inbounds and the residents, overcoming differences and prejudices between people and contributing to meeting, learning and understanding of cultures.

 

Religious Sites and Religious Tourism

Religious sites make a strong fragment of tourism offer, whether the religious or the cultural tourism, thus the distinctiveness between the two terms. Namely, travellers who visit sacred and religious places do not necessarily do it out of religious reasons or as part of spiritual journeys and pilgrimages, but as cultural goods, architectural constructions and artistic works of art. They represent tangible cultural heritage, i.e. the material cultural legacy of a nation and some of the most visited cultural attractions worldwide. However, this area is considerably understudied in terms of academic research, thanks to which it is decided to be given a special attention within this research centre, both theoretically and practically. In this Key area we develop an applied project.

 

Churches of Porto - an engine of tourist attraction

This project is a joint initiative with Irmandade do Senhor dos Passos e S. João Novo and Tourism of Oporto and Oporto City Hall, aiming to promote awareness of important religious heritage sites of Oporto. Particularly, our main aim is to enhance seven churches in the city centre. The project further develops a participatory planning with the actors directly or indirectly linked to tourism. Our specific objectives are: 1) to identify and select areas for visit, 2) to establish aspects or elements that should be emphasized and 3) to define the degree of interference of tourism in the local activities and dynamics.

 

Gastronomy and Enotourism

According to some authors, every tourist is a “voyeuring gourmand”, attracted to certain destinations precisely thanks to their distinctive cuisine. Gastronomy, therefore, represents a powerful tourism attraction of innumerable tourism destinations, as a part of their national identity, tradition, culture and heritage. Some gastronomic delicacies have turned into famous culinary brands that are of focal interest to local, regional and even national tourism planning strategies, due to playing a central role in terms of tourism income generation. Wine tourism experience is predominantly linked to “rurality”, i.e. the rural and the scenery, with romance and sensuality being associated with wine-drinking. This is a very specific and delicate tourism product that not every country is gifted with, and Portugal is. Therefore, there is a lot of potential in this segment that should be additionally explored and boosted, thus this topic is dedicated to experiencing pieces of destination’s culture through nothing by savours.  

Tourism Planning

Planning in tourism milieu should be designed in a way to maximize socio-economic benefits that tourism brings to the local populations and, at the same time, to moderate and even eliminate the unfavourable impacts that come with it. It is the first of various steps in tourism destination management and, if successful, it leads to a successful implementation of the respective plans, successful definition of public policies and governance procedures. Planning draws a line between the local necessities and global demands, helps preserve cultural heritage, categorizes reception capacities, regulates marketing activities, improves accessibility for both visitors and local community members, etc. It is a vast and complex topic, under which a number of sub-topics is to be in focus of the research group. 

 

Accessibilities in Tourism

The theme of accessibility in tourism is particularly wide: the limitations taken into account are not only those mental and physical, but also cultural and intellectual. In the specific issue of accessibility for people with disabilities, the public and private sectors are investing increasing amounts of money, so this issue falls directly within the policies and practices of destination management. Because of its importance, therefore, this phenomenon is considered as a research topic from our centre. Within this area we develop two applied projects:           

 

Special Needs Travellers in Cultural and Heritage Tourism

This project aims to understand the best ways of mobility and accessibility to the cultural heritage attractions of Oporto city, through a particular level of public disclosure. In addition, the project attempts to provide special needs travellers with a City Accessibility Map.

 

Setting the Stage for Heritage Visitor

This projects is focused on a series of case studies, aiming to foster usability and accessibility of cultural structures to make sure general public has an easy access to information regarding the cultural heritage, as well as proper interpretation of cultural heritage sites. HeriCulTour is developing this project in partnership with Oporto City Hall and with Porto and Northern Portugal Tourism Board.

 

 

Participation of Local Communities

The debate on the participation of local communities in the planning and development of tourist territory is an area of great interest internationally. Among others, this practice meets the principles of sustainability, and its scientific analysis has global interests. Our purpose is to embrace this cause in favour of the local society in order to propose new policies, governance models and management practices and the development of tourism in the area.

 

Policies, Planning and Governance

The concepts of governance and public policy are of extreme importance not only for tourism, but also for many alternative tourism subtypes, including the cultural tourism. Governance arose as an increasingly discussed concept in tourism public policy literature, resulting from an increased awareness by both tourism researchers and practitioners of its importance in terms of tourism planning and organization strategies, sustainability concerns, different range of impacts and long-term development. As for the tourism policies, their importance lays in guiding and directing tourism governance, making the two concepts inevitably interconnected. Therefore, the effort of our centre within this topic is to be oriented toward understanding and discussing these concepts in the particular case of cultural heritage tourism and its elements, and in the context of our applied research projects. Within this area we develop an applied projects:        

 

Camino de Santiago

In the case of the Camino de Santiago project, in addition to studying a range of solutions to enhance the “walk to Santiago” in the city of Oporto, we have also adopted Stakeholder Analysis method developed by Schmeer to outline the definition of religious tourism. This method, in fact, has been conceived and originally adopted in the analysis of the policies concerning public health, and has been revised and adopted by our researchers to conduct analysis in the field of tourism policy in order to improve the involvement of different agents of the territory.

 

Innovation in Tourism

In tourism literature, there is a significant gap when it comes to innovation research particularly in what relates to regional/territorial innovation. Development of innovation in tourism destinations highly and directly contributes to the increase of destinations competitiveness. The diffusion of the research alongside tourism firms and organisations promotes the introduction of innovative practices that may improve the competitive position of tourism areas in international markets. Within this regard, and considering the dynamics of tourism industry at regional level, networks are considered to be a determining factor for the achievement of overall tourism development. These topics are framed in a wider field of study that is tourism planning, management and development.

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