Heritage tourism.

Last month, Irv Hamilton, our Senior Vice President of Public Relations, was a session leader at the California Preservation Foundation’s annual conference. The meeting this year was held in Grass Valley/Nevada City, two of the famous Gold Rush towns in the Sierra foothills.

Our session dealt with heritage tourism.  Several subjects that were covered in our meetings provide  a useful framework for communities seeking to strengthen local economies. By definition, heritage tourism uses historic and cultural resources to attract visitors.  Heritage programs can be developed just about anywhere.  Every community has a history.

Following are some important elements for an effective heritage tourism program.

Conduct an unbiased tourism-asset census. Realistically, what assets will attract visitors.  How can they be packaged to be an appealing attraction.

Preserve the authenticity of historic assets. Let people experience the real thing.

Encourage interaction.  Determine how can visitors participate in historic events, rather than just observe them?

Look for ways that local residents can take part in heritage tourism programs.   Make it a community event.

Over the past several years, heritage tourism has grown rapidly as people have become increasingly interested in local history, traditions and culture.  There is even a new word that has been added to the vocabulary of tourism.  It’s “staycations,” which describes-close in travel.  Instead of deciding whether to travel to Mexico or Hawaii, travelers are asking “Should we go to Carmel or Yosemite”.  That new thinking benefits close-in destinations which can offer easily accessible, inexpensive, and historically significant places to visit. Think about the possibilities for your town or city.

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