Critically evaluate the contribution of sports to UK heritage tourism
In terms of British cultural and social history, the development of heritage tourism is a relatively new historical phenomenon. It is the case that during the 18th century an increased interest in Britain’s natural heritage grew considerably. Moreover, the Victorians were very concerned with preserving what they considered to be a unique national heritage (Timothy & Boyd, 2003). However, although these early examples of a concern for heritage can be outlined, it remains the case that the use of heritage as a means of increasing tourist interest is something relatively unique to the modern setting.
As such, the utilisation of heritage as a means of increasing tourism has developed considerably during the latter half of the twentieth century. Many trends and developments account for this alteration. Naturally, it is essential to assert the importance of economic and financial factors in the use of heritage as a tourist tool (Timothy & Boyd, 2003). However, the basis and foundation of heritage and tourism has connotations which stretch far beyond the narrow confines of economics. In particular, given that heritage serves a clear social and cultural function, the interaction between heritage and tourism engenders similar features (Timothy & Boyd, 2003). Thus, at the outset it is essential to highlight the degree to which heritage and tourism interact in a way which has direct relevance for wider societal processes.
A number of factors serve to direct how heritage and tourism are managed and propagated. Historical factors are evidently paramount; however, in addition to the historical basis of heritage, sport has increasingly become viewed as being an effective basis on which to developed heritage tourism (Gammon, 2010). In particular, given that sport creates and propels innate personal and collective passions, the utilisation of sport as a means of developing heritage tourism is pertinent source of investigation for academics concerned with this area of study (Gammon, 2010). Thus, the purpose of this work is to examine the use of sport in heritage tourism within the United Kingdom. Through the use of three examples, it will be shown that sport has a considerable potential in terms of impacting upon effective heritage tourism. In particular, the links between sporting history and the national heritage is paramount to fully exemplifying this impact. Thus, the case study examples used will highlight how sport, heritage and tourism all interact at a fundamental level, and in a way which enhances the benefits and possibilities of all three. However, before this type of detailed assessment is undertaken, it is fist prudent to outline some definitional parameters, in addition to accounting for the general social and cultural role played by heritage tourism in the United Kingdom. Indeed, this initial outline will lay an effective foundation on which to base later analytical investigation.
It is first necessary to outline what is meant by the term ‘heritage tourism’. Timothy & Boyd (2003) suggest that heritage tourism is best understood as a form of tourism which centres on the use of distinct cultural features. This definition highlights the innate interaction between heritage tourism and culture and thus accounts for the specific features which are invariably intrinsic to heritage tourism. Timothy & Boyd (2003) point out that these features will inevitably differ depending on the cultural setting in question; however, the link between heritage tourism and cultural formation remains central, regardless of the specific setting subject to assessment.
In addition to providing a definitional foundation, it is equally important to highlight extent to which the use of heritage tourism has developed over time. In Britain during the 1960s, the preservation of heritage sites centred on the wish to preserve a distinct heritage which was viewed as being innately and uniquely British in nature. Boniface et al (2002) suggest that the increased attention paid to heritage during the 1960s was also due to the changing social atmosphere of the time. Thus, as social processes altered markedly during the liberalisation movements of the 1960s, there was an overt attempt to preserve cultural heritage in the hope that historical trends of culture and identity would remain for future generations (Boniface, 2002). This focus on preservation is undoubtedly central to heritage; however, the use of heritage tourism as a social mechanism has historically assumed connotations which move far beyond the aim of preservation. In particular, during the early and mid 20th century, Sethi (2005) suggests that heritage tourism was used as a means of educating people about British cultural history. This wish to increase the knowledge base of a wide population centred essentially on the political aim of countering social inequality and social exclusion. Whereas during the 19th century heritage tourism was ultimately viewed as being the sole preoccupation of the wealthy upper and middle classes, more recent trends in heritage tourism have attempted greater inclusion in a way which counters negative social trends such as exclusion and oppression. Nonetheless, it is important to note in-line with Timothy & Boyd (2003) that heritage tourism also attempts to create pleasure and fun, whilst simultaneously engendering a greater understanding of cultural distinctiveness.
Therefore, the above discussions have highlighted the centre themes and issues which have historically developed in relation to heritage tourism. What is clear is that heritage tourism and culture interact at a base level and are thus ultimately inter-relliant on one another. Given this inter-reliance, it is clearly possible to see how sports have direct connotations for effective heritage tourism. As suggested above, sport and culture are interlinked to an enormous degree. Indeed, Weed (2007) points out that cultural formation at both the national and local levels are heavily affected by specific sports innate to the region in question. Therefore, it is first important to note that the impact of sport on heritage tourism differs considerably depending on the region one subjects to analysis. Furthermore, the sporting history of a specific region will affect the cultural outlook, both in relation to sport and also what is viewed as inbeing cultural heritage. Thus, heritage tourism is heavily dependent on a geographical assessment which accounts for innate differences and unique characteristics (Weed, 2007). Of course, it is important to note that some sporting heritage transcends local and regional divides, indeed, Hinch & Higham (2009) point out that some sporting history and heritage acts as a means of encapsulating a national psyche. This idea of national heritage tourism reliant on sport will be assessed later. However, at this point it is necessary to outline a regional case study example of where sport and heritage tourism interact fundamentally because the latter forms an intrinsic component of cultural formation in that region.
The interaction between sport and heritage tourism can be clearly seen in Wales. In terms of sporting history, the Welsh have had a natural affinity with the sport of rugby. The extent of this affinity means that rugby is not only the national sport, it is also has direct cultural links with the Welsh nation (Mangan, 1996). At the local level, participation in rugby is a key component of social and cultural formation, which then transcends to encapsulate the entire country at the national level. Therefore, the use of rugby as a source of heritage tourism has long had considerable potential in Wales and in recent years has become increasingly realised. In very recent times, the development of the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff has had a considerable impact upon heritage tourism in the city. Guided tours of the Stadium are available for tourists which focuses heavily on the historical foundations of Welsh rugby and previous sporting success on the field (Gammon, 2010). As such, the heritage tourism which is personifies by the Millennium Stadium is not merely a city focal point aimed at highlighting development and progression in Cardiff, it also acts as a indicator to the importance of rugby in the national psyche of Wales and the degree to which the sport affects cultural formation at both the national and local level. Therefore, as a means of propagating the unique culture of the Welsh, rugby has certainly been used as a method of enhancing the national sporting heritage and the tourism which emerges as a result.
The above example is very useful in highlighting how a national sport can play an intrinsic part in the propagation of heritage tourism. Naturally, the affinity between the Welsh nation and rugby is not unique; indeed, other countries have similar tendencies, most notably New Zealand (Higham & Hinch, 2009). Nonetheless, the Welsh example clearly highlights how heritage, tourism and sport can interact with and propel one another in a mutually beneficial fashion.
However, whereas the example of rugby in Wales denotes a national sense of cultural unity, the next case study is more problematic in this regard. The Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC), established in 1787 is one of the oldest cricket organisations in the world (MCC, 2011). It historical home at Lords thus acts as a central focal point for game of cricket in the United Kingdom. Both the MCC and Lords are stepped in the history of cricket. As such, as a cultural and social indicator, the MCC and Lords act as a clear link between sport and wider social and cultural trends. In particular, the heritage tourism which is on show at Lords emphasises the historical progression of cricket and its innate links with British culture (MCC, 2011). Thus, the heritage tourism offered attempts to directly unite culture and sport through a variety of exhibitions. As such, like the previous case study example, the MCC and Lords highlight the degree to which sport often reflects wider social thinking and thus forms the basis on which heritage tourism can be propagated. However, unlike rugby in Wales, it has often been suggested that the MCC portrays a cultural image through its heritage tourism that fails to fully reflect the social changes which have occurred in Britain over recent decades. Thus, it is essential for the purposes of this work to fully account for why such arguments are proffered and the extent to which the MCC has attempted to change its image in terms of tourism and heritage.
Two prevailing issues are invariably cited in relation to the MCC and the cultural heritage it aims to propel. Firstly, Dellor & Lamb (2006) suggest that the MCC and the sport of cricket in general has often been viewed as being exclusionary in terms of class participation. Thus, on this basis it may be possible to argue that the heritage tourism reflected by the MCC at Lords fails to account for the social developments which have affected British society since the 1960s. Furthermore, until 1999, the MCC engaged in overt discrimination on the basis of gender by not allowing women to be members (Dellor & Lamb, 2006). Therefore, it is once again possible to argue that the heritage tourism which emanates from the MCC has historically been based on gender and class based exclusion.
However, it is important to note that the MCC has in recent years attempted to dispel its discriminatory image and propel a vision of the club as being a personification of all that is good about British culture. Naturally, the historical foundations of heritage tourism within the MCC remain central. Nonetheless, the interaction between the sport of cricket and heritage tourism at the MCC has undoubtedly shifted markedly. Indeed, a number of developments can be outlined to account for this change.
Firstly, Gammon (2010) suggests that the MCC has attempted to change its outward image because of pressures placed on it from wider British society. In particular, Gammon (2010) argues that the MCC could no longer accept the inclusion which personifies wider society, whilst simultaneously engaging in overt gender based discrimination within the club itself. As such, on the basis of this argument it is at least credible to suggest that wider social trends often serve to directly affect the nature of heritage tourism espoused in sport. However, it is also essential to note that this interaction is mirrored by similar interactive tendencies between sport and developments beyond the national level, which serve to affect the kind of heritage tourism espoused. Once again, the MCC and Lords can be utilised as a case study example in this regard.
Above all, the sport of cricket itself has markedly altered in recent years. This alteration is personifies by increased television investment and the globalisation of the sport in general. As such, globalisation is central to understanding the changes which have taken place at the MCC and the outward appearance it assumes in relation to its heritage tourism (Boniface et al, 2002). In particular, the globalisation of cricket has led to changes within the MCC and Lords such as increasing focus on the global game and the interaction between English cricket and other countries (MCC, 2011). As such, the globalisation of sport in general, and cricket in particular can be utilised as a means of highlighting changes in heritage tourism at the national level. Thus, the increased focus on the global nature of cricket, undertaken in recent years at the MCC and Lords, clearly indicates how global pressures affect heritage tourism and sport within specific countries.
In providing a final case study example, it is important to emphasise the degree to which heritage tourism and sport often have an interaction which centres on architectural structures (Weed, 2007). A key example of this interaction can be seen with the old Wembley Stadium. When the old stadium was demolished, those in against the demolition argued that Wembley represented a piece of cultural sporting heritage. Moreover, Weed (2007) suggests that arguments made in favour of keeping the original Wembley focused on its historical value as a source of tourism, both within Britain and the wider world. This interpretation of the original Wembley stadium thus links an historical building with an innate sense of British cultural identity and British history. Therefore, it is possible to see the degree to which traditional sources of heritage tourism such as buildings and architecture are relevant in sport, and act as a source of interaction between sport and heritage tourism.
Therefore, the various discussions and examinations undertaken during the course of this work have clearly highlighted the interaction between sports and heritage tourism. Moreover, with reference to the case study examples outlined above, it is possible to see that sports have a considerable contribution to make to heritage tourism within the United Kingdom. Sport has a unique ability to act as a source of national pride and cultural unity. As such, it is this ability to combine sporting endeavour with a sense of cultural distinctiveness which accounts for the impact sport has on heritage tourism (Weed, 2007). However, one must take care when suggesting only sport at the national level affects heritage tourism. Indeed, the case study of the MCC and Lords personifies the extent to which globalised processes in sport are serving to impact directly on the nature and characteristics of heritage tourism within the United Kingdom. Nonetheless, the fact that sport is effective in propelling a form of heritage tourism which engenders greater understanding of local, regional and national cultural trends is undiminished. Indeed, it is this tendency on the part of sport which best explains the protracted and often positive contribution sports make to heritage tourism. Given that sport as a business phenomenon is developing at a consistent rate, it is likely that this contribution will develop further in the future.
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