Tourism heritage plays an essential part in ensuring the long term financial effectiveness of heritage sites. However, there is a clear dialectic between ensuring financial effectiveness through increase tourism and carrying out sound practices of visitor management. As such, the essential issue is one of balancing increased tourism at historic sites whilst simultaneously ensuring that these sites are not adversely affected by increasing numbers of visitors. Thus, the issue here is ultimately one of effective visitor management.
Above all, the need to ensure effective tourist management at historic sites is not necessary a recent phenomenon. Indeed, the example of Stonehenge provides a clear insight into how increasing numbers of visitors have affected the long term strategies adopted towards the management of historic national sites. Page (2009) suggests that there needs to be a comprehensive understanding of the physical and structural issues at work in historic sites. In the case of Stonehenge, the early development of the site as a tourist attraction resulted in varying degrees of structural damage to the ancient monuments. Therefore, the management of Stonehenge took the decision to close off the ancient stones and thus preserve their structural integrity (Page, 2009). Naturally, this decision affected the attractiveness of the site to visitors. However, Woodside (2007) suggests that tourist management at Stonehenge has over recent years highlighted how commercial interest can serve to propel the effectiveness of an historic tourist site. Thus, the establishment of various food outlets and other forms of attraction in the area surrounding Stonehenge has been undertaken. Thus, the example of Stonehenge highlights how some historic tourist sites have engaged in effective visitor management in overcoming the dialectic between increasing visitor numbers and the attractiveness of the historic site itself.
A further example of how the ‘vicious circle’ of tourism development often serves to impact negatively on historic sites can be seen in relation to the Snowdonia Railway in North Wales. The railway was built towards the end of the nineteenth century as a way for tourists to visit the top of the Snowdonia Mountain without having the climb the actual mountain itself. The building of the railway did cause some scarring on the otherwise perfect natural surroundings, however, in recent years the issue has been one of increasing visitor numbers and the effect this is having on the landscape around the mountain. Visitor management at the Snowdonia site has invariably attempted to increase visitor numbers in order to ensure the attraction has long term financial viability. However, Page (2009) suggests that this willingness to increase numbers has had an effect on the beauty of the areas surrounding the mountain and the mountain itself. As such, visitor management at Snowdonia has attempted to highlight the need for visitors not to spoil the landscape around the mountain when they make use of the railway. As such, this example shows how visitor management strategies at Snowdonia have attempted to forge a link between financial effectiveness and the long term viability and sanctity of the site itself. However, it is questionable whether the strategies adopted will eventually ensure that the historic national park around the railway is preserved in its present condition for future generations. Indeed, this issue is one affecting many areas of natural beauty that have seen marked rises in visitor numbers over recent years.
It has often been suggested that historic towns can used as a means of developing Britain’s future potential and success. Numerous reasons account for this suggestion. In particular, Timothy & Boyd (2003) suggest that Britain is fortunate that the national history has never witnessed widespread destruction in the form of invasion. As such, beyond the air bombardments of the Second World War, Timothy & Boyd (2003) highlights how Britain’s historic monuments and towns have essentially remained intact. As such, the widespread occurrence of historic towns in Britain creates considerable potential for increased heritage tourism. The form such tourism takes diverges considerably depending on the town in question. Thus, although the presence of many historic towns creates considerable outlets for historic tourist sites, these sites also engender a considerable level of diversity. In particular, Weaver & Lawton (2010) suggest that tourism in traditional historic towns in the countryside have been augmented by new forms of historic tourism in industrial centres. Thus, the possibility of marketing Britain as a heritage tourism centre with diversity in its heritage sites is considerable.
However, with specific focus to historic towns, Weaver & Lawton (2010) suggest that a problem emerges when such towns are used as a means of enhancing and developing heritage tourism. In particular, many historic towns in Britain create their atmosphere and attraction on the basis of peace and tranquillity. As such, Weaver & Lawton (2010) suggest that idyllic images of historic sites are negatively affected when large numbers of tourists chose to visit. In addition, Sethi (2005) suggests that at a subjective level, the societal nature of historic town’s changes markedly when subject to intensive tourism. Therefore, on both a practical and theoretical level, the ability of historic towns to maintain their intrinsic historical features is irksomely difficult when high levels of tourism occur.
However, Timothy & Boyd (2003) suggest that the use of heritage tourism in many of Britain’s historic towns creates a plethora of benefits in terms of projecting an image of Britain both now and in the future. Indeed, in providing a firm physical link with the past, Timothy & Boyd (2003) point out that historic towns not only engender and reinforce popular conceptions of an idealistic British history; they also create the potential for the projection of certain values and ethics. In this sense, it is possible to see how the use of historic towns as sources of tourism has considerable potential for creating confidence in the future (Timothy & Boyd, 2003). Woodside (2007) suggests that a firm link with the past allows for a measure of uniformity and social coherence in wider society. Thus, it is clearly possible to argue that the relevance of historic towns as sources of moral and social development moves far beyond the auspices of history itself. Indeed, in providing a link with the past, historic towns highlight British innovation and stability, thus enhancing future prospects (Timothy & Boyd, 2003)
The use of management techniques is central to the effective utilisation of heritage tourism. Above all, Page (2009) suggests that dramatic rises in visitor numbers in certain attractions and towns in Britain has resulted in a variety of practical problems for authorities charged with the maintenance of these sites. In many respects, it is possible to account for these management techniques through reference to general management practice. However, Page (2009) points out that tourism management has specific features which allow for effective responses to issues and dilemmas occurring solely within tourism itself. For example, Page (2009) suggests that certain historical and tourist sites in Britain have been required to engage in effective demand management. In particular, management at historic sites such as that at Stonehenge have at times engaged in demand management techniques in order to lower the time visitors spend at the site. In addition, demand management has also been undertaken at Stonehenge by restricting levels of access to the particularly delicate areas of the site (Page, 2009).
Furthermore, tourism management techniques have been applied to other tourist settings in Britain. Swarbrooke (1999) suggests that may historic sites often fail to have the necessary level of amenities and facilities to cope with large numbers of visitors. As such, resource management processes have been adopted at many historic sites such as Tewskesbury Abbey. In particular, Swarbrooke (1999) suggests that Tewkesbury Abbey is a pertinent example of how the development of tourist facilities has been undertaken in relative distance from the actual site itself. Thus, increased amenities and facilities which enhance the attractiveness of a tourist site do not necessarily have to be applied on the actual site itself. Indeed, this ability to develop facilities beyond the actual site itself also does much to ensure the continued sanctity of historic sites such as Tewskesbury Abbey (Swarbrooke, 1999).
In addition, applying tourism management techniques to areas of natural beauty are of paramount importance. Woodside (2007) suggests that the most relevant tourist management technique in the case of natural environments is the management of impact. In Britain, Woodside (2007) suggests that the practices undertaken by tourist management at in the Lake District have for many years attempted to mitigate the impact on the local environment brought about by increasing visitor numbers. In particular, increased marketing for specific areas in the Lake District has meant that visitors can be channelled into areas designated for the development of tourism. As such, other areas not only remain less affected by tourism, but also create the potential for developing specific modes of tourist attraction beyond that available in designated areas (Woodside, 2007).
Finally, Weaver & Lawton (2010) suggest that it is essential for general tourist management techniques to account for financial and economic effectiveness, whilst simultaneously ensuring the long term future of the site in question. This delicate balance is invariably difficult to achieve, nonetheless, the practical imposition of management processes designed specifically for the tourism industry creates the necessary foundations on which to base develop a tourist attraction that is both financially effective and sustainable (Swarbrooke, 1999).