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    Discussion on authenticity of heritage sites  


    Authenticity is one of the most important attributes when it comes to heritage sites and is one of the basic principles for this type of tourism according to Fisher (1999, as cited in Chhabra et al, 2003). Authenticity has become a marketing tool or even a buzz word as many tourists look for authentic experiences and genuine places. (Timothy and Boyd, 2006). Some researchers believe that the quality of heritage tourism is enhanced by the level of authenticity. Others believe that authenticity is often staged or distorted to better fit the needs and wants of the tourists (Chhabra et al, 2003). Authenticity has gained popularity as a conceptual problem during the 1990 and is still a topic for debate and research today (Timothy and Boyd, 2006).


    It is argued that even when tourists experience inauthentic heritage they believe they are experiencing authentic heritage due to the sites promotional efforts. The promotional efforts often present fairy tales as facts and replicas as reality (Timothy and Boyd, 2003, as cited in Timothy and Boyd, 2006). There is a common tendency to focus on the pieces of heritage that show the positive events and exclude the elements that are unpleasant and socially unacceptable. In outdoor heritage museums people are portrayed as happy with little concerns about death, poverty, starvation and diseases. The streets of a small village in the 12th century would be filled with manure and mud (Timothy and Boyd 2006). According to Cohen (1995 as cited in Bobot, 2012) the view on whether something is authentic or not might vary depending on the time and context. It is suggested that authenticity is mutable and people can have different views on whether something is authentic or not. The local community might think something is artificial but overtime view them as authentic and a representation of their heritage. Some tourists might feel that commercial reproductions of the past suffice as authentic (Bobot, 2012).


    Authenticity is a key factor when it comes to heritage tourism but as mentioned before authenticity can vary depending on one’s view or the context it is presented in. Many tourists have a certain image of a place due to promotional activities and there for might think something is authentic when in reality it is not. Some tourists might not even want to experience authenticity as it can come with unpleasant elements. Elements that are not authentic at first might even become authentic over time. As the view on authenticity can change and many people can have different views it is difficult to state whether a heritage site is really authentic or not.


    Written by Antonia Broeders




    Bobot (2012) Negotiating authenticity: Cathar heritage tourism. Journal of Heritage Tourism, vol. 7, no. 2,

    Chhabra, Healy and Sills (2003) Staged authenticity and heritage. Annals of Tourism Research, Vol. 30, No. 3,

    Timothy and  Boyd (2006) Heritage Tourism in the 21st Century: Valued Traditions and New Perspectives. Journal of Heritage Tourism, vol. 1, no. 1

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    Hello Antonia
    Interesting topic you have raised. It is well written brief description. I am just curious about the one thing related with authenticity is that, who is the legitimate body for authentication of heritages? Because sometimes nation has same thing but different story. Don't you think this kind of thing makes authenticity complicated?
    Thank You
    Posted 09:20, 12 Dec 2014
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