Heritage tourism planning and management
Olive, Nathaniel David
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The heritage area is a relatively young natural and cultural resource conservation strategy that engages both host communities and visitors in the telling of the story of place through tourism. To be designated, National Heritage Areas (NHAs) are required to demonstrate that heritage tourism is consistent with an area’s economic activity. Yet, despite the vital role that heritage tourism plays in sustainable economic development, few studies have analyzed heritage tourists as a distinct market niche, and none have provided methods for assessing market feasibility or management priorities. As a result, heritage tourism planning and management has thus far operated without specific guidance from the tourism literature and market assessment requirements have been ignored in NHA feasibility studies. The purpose of this study is to provide a methodological framework that compliments community-based planning procedures to do the following: 1) determine the feasibility of NHA tourism development from a market assessment approach, and 2) identify results-oriented heritage tourism performance measures for evaluating the efficacy of NHA tourism management. Using a comparative market research approach, this study contrasts heritage tourism with mass and eco-tourism based on a random sample of visitors to the United States Virgin Islands. Visitor satisfaction was analyzed through the lens of disconfirmation theory in an innovative importance-performance disconfirmation assessment. Results of this study establish heritage tourism as a niche market with unique sensitivities and management requirements. Heritage tourists are the most loyal, pull-motivated, female, and likely to spend money according to their attitudes about heritage destination attributes. Additionally, their destination loyalty is less affected by trip satisfaction than other segments. Heritage tourism management requires more attentive management on service quality, access to internet, and authentic delivery of heritage tourism experiences. Finally, the study concludes with a proposed Heritage Tourism Planning Framework that integrates this work into the larger existing NHA planning guidelines. This research provides new understandings of the heritage tourism market and market research methodologies that can be used to better inform heritage planning and management in NHAs and other heritage areas around the world.