Sport and UK Tourism ONE 2500 words – degree level

Critically evaluate the contribution of sports to UK heritage tourism

Tourism has for many years been a way of increasing revenue in certain industries.  However, the nature and features of tourism have alerted significantly over recent decades.  In particular, since the 1970s there has been an increasing focus on heritage as being a key area where the benefits of tourism can be exploited for the general benefit of the local community and wider nation (Timothy & Boyd, 2003).  As such, heritage tourism has become a central focus of those who wish to develop the local and national historical features which act as an indication of a clear and unique culture.

Given that heritage tourism is now a key area of concern for academics and policy makers, the purpose of this essay is to offer assessment of heritage tourism on the basis of sport.  This focus is hugely prevalent to the wider debates talking place in relation to heritage tourism.  Above all, given that heritage tourism is essentially concerned with utilising historical sites as a means of propelling tourist interest and personifying cultural trends, sport has clear and obvious connotations with this vision.  Indeed, sport acts as a unifying force in terms of cultural heritage because large numbers of the national population engage in sporting activities and view sport (Herbert, 1997).  Therefore, it is certainly credible to argue that the use of sport as a means of developing heritage tourism has considerable benefits, both in terms of increased revenue, and the development of a cultural foundation on which to base the national outlook.

Therefore, this work will detail the degree to heritage tourism can benefit from the use of sport and sporting events in a way which can often mutually beneficial.  However, it is important to note at the outset that although sport acts as the primary case analysis in this work, the essential focus remains on the concept and application of heritage tourism.  Therefore, the examinations which take place throughout this work aim to highlight the nature and features of heritage tourism, whist at the same time showing the extent to which sport can contribute to these features in a beneficial fashion.  Given this, the analysis which follows below will use some key case study examples in sport in a way which supports the general arguments made.  The central feature of the thesis argued throughout is that sport can be hugely effective in developing existing heritage tourism and establishing new forms of tourism in areas previously unseen.

However, before graduated assessment of the issues in heritage tourism and sport are offered, it is first essential to define what is meant by the term heritage tourism.  Indeed, the provision of such definition will mean that the assessments undertaken in the later sections of this work are formed on the most effective foundation possible.

In providing a succinct definition of heritage tourism, Hewison (1989, in Herbert, 1997; 6) suggests that heritage it “that which a past generation has preserved and handed on to the present generation and which a significant group of the population wish to hand on to the future”. Therefore, this traditional definition of heritage denotes the historical foundations of the idea of heritage as being something very important to the cultural fabric of the population.  Moreover, although many of the population may be unaware of the direct benefits of their national or local heritage, the general assumption made here is that overall society benefits from the preservation of heritage.  As such, preservation is a key theme in heritage and indeed, during the 1970s, the willingness to preserve iconic heritage sites was commonplace among a new generation which aimed to offset the liberal movements which had developed in the 1960s (Timothy & Boyd, 2003).

The above definition of heritage is useful as a starting point of analysis.  On the basis of this definition it is possible to outline how heritage and tourism interact.  If heritage is something which is unique and precious to a given society, then there is considerable potential for it to be viewed by large numbers people.  Therefore, the economic potential for such heritage sites is considerable, which in many respects accounts of the link between heritage and tourism (Timothy & Boyd, 2003).

Before detailed assessment of how sport affects heritage tourism is offered, it is first important to outline the cultural issues which arise in heritage tourism, in addition to offering some societal indictors which account for the kind of people who are prone to engage in heritage tourism.  With regards to the first issue, Smith (2009) suggests that heritage tourism is essentially founded on the cultural fabrics which occur within the given territorial region in question.  Therefore, the kind of heritage tourism that a given region has to offer will shed direct light onto the type of society it is.  Smith (2009) supports this assessment by pointing to the ability of social and cultural history in highlighting modern trends.  Therefore, it is possible to see how the type of heritage tourism on offer will depend on the specific features of culture and society in which it is based.

In addition, it is important to examine the type of social groups who usually utilise heritage tourism sites.  This is important because if certain social groups engage in heritage tourism, then it will be necessary to discover whether sport brings about any change in this social basis.  Timothy & Boyd (2003; 52) suggest that the type of people who visit heritage sites are often have similar social characteristics.  Thus, in terms of demographics, Timothy & Boyd (2003; 53) argue that the type of people who visit heritage sites are usually “highly educated, often hold well paid jobs within professional and managerial positions [and with a] gender slant towards women”.   Therefore, if this assessment is correct, then the market for heritage tourism is fairly limited in terms of those who it aims to attract.  The social and cultural basis of heritage tourism is therefore based on a historical understanding of the culture of the region in question, whereas those who choose to visit the heritage sites are often derived from a specific type of social group.

Therefore, the above discussion shows that although heritage tourism is available for all, only a certain type of person engages in such tourism to a large extent.  In terms of the focus of this work, this is an interesting issue.  As outlined previously, if only certain types of people visit heritage sites then the potential for a wide diversity in victors is reduced.  Furthermore, the kind of people who are suggested by Timothy & Boyd (2003) to visit heritage sites may not necessarily be the same type of people who partake in sports, particular certain popular sports like football or rugby.  Therefore, the definition of heritage tourism and the demographics suggested by Timothy & Boyd (2003) may not be conducive with sporting activity. However, this work will argue that this is not the case.  In fact, because sport has such a wide appeal which transcends class-based and other social divides, this may mean that sport is capable of developing heritage tourism in way not possible using traditional methods.  Indeed, a number of academic authorities concur with this assessment and thus reference must be made to the arguments which are made in this regard.

Collins & Kay (2003) suggest that sport acts as a key method of developing social inclusion.  Social exclusion is argued to be the social structural features which exclude certain groups in society form benefiting from social processes.  Class membership can serve to act as a means of social exclusion, in addition to financial concerns (Collins & Kay, 2003).  Therefore, the demographics of heritage tourism proffered by Timothy & Boyd (2003) may in some measure further explain the tendency for heritage to act as a source of social exclusion.  If heritage sites are expensive or require intellectual knowledge in order to be fully enjoyed, then members of certain classes may feel unwilling or unable to participate in such tourism.  Therefore, heritage tourism itself can certainly be seen as propelling social exclusion. As suggested, this point is essential to bear in mind when case study examples of the link between sport and heritage tourism are outlined.

The above discussions have shown the nature of heritage tourism and its links with culture, society, geography and demographics.  Now that this has been achieved, it is time to examine heritage tourism on the basis of the potential contribution of sport.  Rather than using a large number of examples, one feels it is analytically better to focus on a few case studies in depth, so that detailed assessment can be provided.  The first case study to undergo assessment will be the Olympic Games.

As a case study, the Olympic Games can be used in any city-based setting for the purposes of this work.  However, given that the next games will be held in London in 2012, this seems an appropriate setting to analyse.

The Olympic Games acts as the central sporting event in the global sporting calendar with every country in the world participating to some degree.  Therefore, the visitor attraction of the Olympics is huge.  Indeed, Weed (2007) suggests that the financial benefits to business as a result of the London Olympics could easily reach £3 billion.  Moreover, given that London boasts considerable heritage and tourist attractions, there is a clear link between sport and heritage tourism in this case study example.  In addition, it is important to note that the Olympic Games transcend class based demographics in terms of social inclusion.  Therefore, Standeven & Knop (1999) suggest that large scale sporting events like the Olympics have an enormous economic impact on the region where they are held.  As such, through reference to the London Olympics, it is possible to see two considerable contributions made by sport to heritage tourism.  Firstly, there is the financial benefit received by heritage tourist sites as a result of the mass influx of visitors.  However, of equal importance in terms of the present investigation is the degree to which large scale sporting events like the Olympics act as a method of social cohesion in wider society.  Like the World Cup in football, sporting events such as the Olympics give wider society a reason to celebrate something which is of specific pride to their national setting.  Therefore, this kind of social inclusion is relatively unique; indeed, Collins & Kay (2003) point out that sport is in itself fairly unique in terms of how it can engender widespread feelings of unity at the national level.  In addition, it is essential to account for the impact of globalisation on major sporting events like the Olympics.  Globalisation has meant that traditional territorial boundaries no longer act in a way which prevents the movement of people, culture and ideas (Gammon, 2010).  Therefore, the Olympics, with its global connotations propel the engine of globalisation in a way which places the host city at the centre of a globalised world.  This worldview of a sporting event also projects the cultural and social features of the host city to the rest of the world, thus enhancing the foundations on which heritage tourism essentially rests (Gammon, 2010) Therefore, it is certainly credible to argue that sporting events like the Olympics can contribute directly to heritage tourism in a number of different ways, both economically and socially.

The second case study example which will be used to highlight the interaction between heritage tourism and sport is another specific sporting event; the Ryder Cup.  However, unlike the Olympics, it has been argued that in terms of social cohesion, events like the Ryder Cup often act in a way which increases the kind of social exclusion sometimes argued to be present in heritage tourism.  Collins & Kay (2003) suggest that the sport of golf itself is exclusionary for a number of reasons.  Firstly, playing golf regularly is more expensive than some other sports.  Therefore, on a purely financial level, golf acts as a sport which often embodies exclusionary tendencies.  Furthermore, Collins & Kay (2003) also point out that a clear class and race based divide exists in golf.  Thus, the majority of people who play golf tend to be from the upper or middle classes, and not from an ethnic minority (Collins & Kay, 2003).   However, if one is concur with the assessment offered above, namely that people from higher classes tend to engage in heritage tourism, then it may be possible to argue that large sporting events like the Ryder Cup attract the very type of people who would use heritage sites.  Thus, although the Ryder Cup is not capable of creating the positive kind of social exclusion seen in Olympics, it is nevertheless the case that sporting events of this kind can still have a considerable contribution to make to the heritage tourism industries in the area surrounding the event.  As such, although the type of impact felt differs considerably, along with the demographics, the argument that sport has a direct and positive impact upon heritage tourism is still supportable.

The final case study example which will be used to support the thesis outlined earlier in this work is outdoor pursuits and adventure tours.    Once again, this form of sport serves to propel the thesis that only does sport and heritage tourism interact, the former has a positive contribution to make to the latter.  Hudson (2007) points out that the popularity of adventure tours and outdoor pursuits like canoeing and rock climbing has increased dramatically over recent years.  Moreover, the areas where such sports are undertaken often correspond with natural heritage which has been developed in terms of tourist interest.  The heritage interests which often feature in the natural areas of these sporting pursuits take place thus stand to benefit considerably from the influx of tourists, who are seeking to understand the real culture which lies behind the official face of the region or country in question (Hudson, 2007).  Thus, once again, this example serves to exemplify the interaction between sport and heritage tourism in a way which is mutually beneficial.

In conclusion, the examinations undertaken above have shown that there is a clear linkage between sport and heritage tourism.  In particular, returning to the thesis on which this work is based, it is certainly credible to argue that sport has a variety of contributions to make to heritage tourism.  Above all, these varied contributions tend to revolve around two central issues.  Firstly, the interest and participation which occurs in sport means that visitor numbers of heritage sites increase, particularly if a major sporting event is being held nearby.  Therefore, in terms of pure financial impetus, the impact sport can have on heritage tourist sites is potentially very large indeed.  Secondly, in terms of the projection of social and cultural trends, sport has a great deal to offer heritage tourism.  In particular, sports that engender greater social cohesion such as the case study example of the Olympics create the clear possibility of allowing for an enhancement of social inclusion.  Thus, in both the financial and socio/cultural senses, sport can propel the foundations of heritage tourism in a way not possible using any other method.  Thus, it is likely that the interaction between these two issues will continue to develop over time.


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