Cultural Tourism and Why It Matters

by Jenna Lee
Cultural Tourism - Roman Forum copyright Jenna Lee

What is Cultural Tourism?

The easiest definition of cultural tourism is very simple but broad. Let me explain. The World Tourism Organization defines it as traveling with the purpose of visiting sites and events with cultural and historical value. Pretty simple, right? However, cultural tourism becomes somewhat of an umbrella term when you consider all the ways in which you can experience the culture of a new city, state or country. These can include admiring art, attending festivals, visiting historical monuments and a variety of other ways you can immerse yourself into local traditions. Let’s not forget local cuisine!

Essentially, cultural tourism is the act of creating an authentic experience with a place and its people.

Mt Vesuvius behind Pompeii Cultural Tourism

Archeological sites are a window to the past that can lead to better understanding. View from inside Pompeii with Mt. Vesuvius in the distance.

The Importance of Cultural Tourism

Cultural tourism is beneficial for both the traveler and the destination providing both economic and social advantages. In fact, I believe it is one more step we can take toward sustainable travel. By choosing cultural tourism, we can help create a positive local economical impact, bridge social gaps, and assist in the preservation of history and the culture which we are exploring. Our reward is a rich and memorable experience gained through learning and connection.

Responsible Tourism

I can’t talk to you about cultural tourism without addressing responsible tourism. It’s a wonderful thing and a deep privilege to visit historical and sacred sites and monuments. Sadly, all too often these sites are not treated responsibly. Monuments, cathedrals, artwork, etc are priceless in the context of history and heritage. They are also incredibly difficult and expensive to preserve.

Please don’t be that person eating your lunch on the steps and leaving trash behind. No, it isnt ok to use your camera flash to capture that great piece of art (unless they say you can). For the love of all that is good, if taking a selfie compromises your safety, the safety of others or, most importantly, the monument itself, DO NOT DO IT.  Respect is simple. Practice it!


Supporting cultural sites and activities supports local communities not only through jobs and dollars, but through preservation of valuable windows into the past. Learning history, exploring heritage and sharing in local traditions both old and new is to foster global community by developing a better understanding of each other and the world we share.

Some of my favorite ways to explore culture are through history, art and locally owned shops and restaurants. What are some of your favorite ways to explore and connect while traveling? I’d love to hear about it in the comments!

Want to see more photos from our trip to Italy? Check out this post…

2 Weeks in Italy: A Photograpic Journey

Cultural Tourism Pin Travels of Jenna

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