Heritage tourism is presently at an interesting phase of development, when it should become more inclusive, community driven and technologically savvy. In this presentation made at the recently held Indian Heritage Hotels Association at Tijara Fort & Palace, some 200 delegates gathered to deliberate on trends in their business.
“It is a unique opportunity in time and history of our country, to transform and take heritage tourism in India to the next level. The impetus on sustainability and technology enhancement will pave the way to the growth of its heritage tourism sector globally and lead the nation to a prosperous future.
The future vision for heritage tourism is exciting and full of aspirations. As we look ahead, we can envision a world where heritage tourism not only preserves and celebrates our rich history and culture of a region but also contributes to sustainable development, promotes inclusivity, and leverages advanced technology for immersive and educational experiences.
Sustainable Preservation is one of the impetuses of our heritage movement. Heritage sites and landmarks must be preserved in a sustainable manner, utilizing eco-friendly construction and appropriate restoration techniques. Conservation efforts will not only prioritize man-made heritage but will strive to protect our natural habitats and ecosystems, promoting a balance between tourism and environmental conservation.
Another aspiration is Inclusivity and Accessibility. Our goal must be to become more inclusive, ensuring that people of all abilities, backgrounds, and ages can enjoy and learn from these destinations. This will involve improved accessibility infrastructure, audio guides and signage in multiple languages & aids for the disabled.
Cultural Exchange is an important aspect for the future of heritage tourism, whereby we foster cultural exchange and understanding between visitors and local communities. Interactive programs, cultural festivals, and community-led tours will encourage meaningful interactions and mutual respect.
Advanced technology like augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) will offer immersive experiences at heritage sites. Visitors can virtually step back in time, explore historical events, and witness the evolution of a place through interactive digital exhibits. As such Digital Immersion should be availed to the maximum that we can.
We can aspire to play a vital role in education, offering tailored programs for schools and universities. These programs will blend traditional and digital leaning methods to engage students in the history, art and culture of a region.
Indigenous heritage and traditional knowledge will be learned, respected and preserved. Local communities will be actively involved in shaping the narratives around their heritage, ensuring that it is accurately represented. This will boost local economies by creating jobs and income opportunities for residents. Sustainable tourism practices will be encouraged to prevent an overdose of tourism and its negative impacts and carrying capacity should be observed and respected. Our environmental conservation efforts must include reforestation, waste reduction, and sustainable transportation options, to minimize its ecological footprint.
Local cuisine will play a central role with visitors enjoying authentic dishes and culinary experiences. This can also support local farmers and food producers & be an added activity for the visitors to partake in learning local culinary skills.
Integrated heritage routes will connect multiple sites and regions, encouraging tourists to explore beyond the well-known landmarks. This will lead to a more even distribution of visitors and reduce congestion at popular sites.
I believe that governments and international organizations will use heritage tourism as a means of cultural diplomacy, promoting cross-border cooperation and understanding through shared heritage appreciation.
In this future vision, heritage tourism will not only serve as a means of respecting our past but also as a catalyst for a more sustainable, inclusive, and culturally rich world. By embracing these aspirations, we can create a future where heritage habitats are both protected and enjoyed by generations to come.”
As the former royal of Jodhpur, Gaj Singh ji is chairman, Emeritus, of the Indian Heritage Hotels Association of India. His premium fort in Jodhpur, a leading heritage hotel property, Umaid Bhawan Palace, is run by Taj Group.