Intangible Heritage and Tourism

How to deal with the commercialization of intangible cultural heritage?

In this research line we did research into how tourism can contribute to the safeguarding of intangible heritage. How to deal with possible over-commercialization of intangible heritage?

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Design Ontwerphaven

What challenges have been addressed in this line of research?

Many intangible heritage communities see tourism as an opportunity to attract more visitors, in order to draw more attention to their intangible heritage. How can you respond to tourists wanting to experience the local flavor of the region they visit? But also: where are boundaries? How can you prevent your intangible heritage from becoming just a trick for tourists? Disneyfication is a phrase often used. UNESCO refers to this as the risk of 'over-commercialization'. How can you collaborate with the tourism sector in a more sustainable way? In the course of 2020, the concept of sustainable tourism was given a new meaning. Where initially the research focused on the risk of over-tourism, corona shifted attention to a form of sustainable, more small-scale, quality tourism.

What activities and research has the Dutch Centre for Intangible Cultural Heritage undertaken?

In this research line we collaborated with Universities of Applied Sciences and research groups specialized in tourism and regional development (see below for a list). A Network of Intangible Heritage & Tourism was set up, which met several times a year. Students from the university colleges first explored, at a regional level, the wishes, needs and challenges of the heritage communities. It was striking that some heritage communities see enormous potential in tourism, but often do not yet know how to tackle it and how, for example, to cooperate with the local recreational business community. Others mainly saw the risks and especially wanted to keep tourists out as much as possible. This requires a specific variant of what is called 'visitor management'. In the next phase, product-oriented tourist packages were developed for a number of heritage communities, such as a tourist package for the Vondelcaroussel.

What did this yield in terms of new insights?

Intangible heritage offers opportunities for tourism. But always monitor collaboration with other parties, such as the local recreational business community. Always evaluate whether the collaboration really delivers what you expected from it. The benefits apply to both intangible heritage practitioners and other parties. For the intangible heritage communities, it offers opportunities to win new target groups and getting more attention for your form of intangible heritage. But try to prevent your intangible heritage from becoming just a trick for tourism.

For the tourism sector, intangible heritage offers opportunities to develop meaningful quality tourism. Intangible heritage has something to offer for tourists looking for sophistication and a meaningful story. Intangible Cultural Heritage also offers an experience. Intangible heritage is closely linked to (the image) of the region or place you want to market. Municipalities and provinces can also benefit from it.

In tourism studies, a lot of attention is currently being paid to obtaining local support from the population for the development of tourism products. If your product lacks support from the local population or from the intangible heritage practitioners you want to use for marketing, you will not make it. Always work together with the intangible heritage practitioners whose intangible heritage is marketed for tourism.

Concrete recommendations for heritage practitioners and intangible heritage communities
  • Look for cooperation with the local business community and try to link up with the tourist spearheads of your municipality;
  • Commit to sustainable, ecologically responsible tourism, more topical than ever because of corona;
  • Provide visibility throughout the year, including through 'augmented reality'. The Dutch Centre for Intangible Cultural Heritage developed a product that makes intangible heritage visible via QR codes that refer to videos on a website, 'Spotting intangible heritage' ( add web link);
  • Do not be naive and consider well in advance not only what tourism can offer you, but also map out the possible risks and always evaluate during the process whether the project still meets expectations.
Concrete products
  • First of all, a series of theses that will be made available via this website;
  • On Friday, June 19, 2020, the Knowledge Center organized a Dutch-Flemish webinar on Intangible heritage and tourism during and after corona. The day replaced the previously planned conference on intangible heritage and sustainable tourism, which could not take place due to corona. For an extensive report see here. Ko Koens talks about sustainable tourism and overtourism ( ) and Kristof Lataire, among other things, about co-creating in tourism with heritage communities ( ).
  • A concrete road map for intangible heritage communities to get started with tourism is: Intangible Heritage & Tourism. A guide for intangible heritage communities to put yourself on the map for tourism: challenges and good examples for sustainable tourism . The guide was developed and designed by InHolland student Laura Odak.
  • An in-depth scientific publication: a theme issue of the Dutch-Flemish magazine Volkskunde, entitled: Intangible Heritage as a Tourist Destination, in which the opportunities and possibilities of intangible heritage tourism are explored, with attention to topics such as authenticity and new opportunities for ethnic tourism. Release date December 2020.

Network partners

Participants in the Intangible Heritage & Tourism Network: Wendy Raaphorst and Ko Koens (InHolland University of Applied Sciences), Michiel Flooren and Theresa Dona (Saxion), Frederike van Ouwerkerk (Breda University of Applied Sciences), Wil Munsters (Zuyd University of Applied Sciences), Maaike de Jong ( Stenden University of Applied Sciences), Alexander Grit (Hanze University of Applied Sciences Groningen), Bouke van Gorp (Utrecht University), Jan Hein Furnée (Radboud University of Nijmegen), Margot Tempelman (HZ / University of Applied Sciences).

Contact person: Albert van der Zeijden,

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