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Authenticity of a heritage site

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    Authenticity of a heritage site

    Authenticity is a subject which is discussed extensively in papers for many years and is a word that is frequently used in the tourism industry (Timothy & Boyd, 2006; Cole. 2007). The debates mainly started when Dean Mac-Cannell presented his theory about ‘staged authenticity’, meaning that the modern traveler explores in the search for an authentic other, on other places and in other times (Mkono, 2013). The debates also reached the heritage tourism, where is questioned whether or not heritage tourist seek for some form of authenticity together with the site. Moscardo & Pearce (1986 in Timothy & Boyd, 2006) demonstrate that many tourists do seek for authentic encounters in some ways besides, perceived authenticity is shown to create more satisfactory experience for visitors.


    Many heritage sites offer products that are produced by the local community to make the heritage story complete. These products can vary from handcrafts and souvenirs till food as these are often seen as real local products, especially when tourists are able to see them creating or preparing the products. This direct selling and small promotion of the local community creates an authentic experience for the tourists and gives the communities economic opportunities (Timothy & Ron, 2013).


    However, research has also shown that the desire towards authentic experiences can also trick tourists in believing that inauthentic heritage is authentic. This use of the word authentic is frequently used as destination promotion that present fairy tale stories as facts and use replicas to present the reality (Timothy & Boyd, 2003 as stated in Timothy & Boyd, 2006). Besides, it is used in marketing campaigns and slogans by tourism related organizations, agencies and businesses (Apostolakis, 2003 in Timothy & Boyd, 2006). Moreover, Timothy & Boyd (2003) mention that many popular heritage destinations are characterized with the creation of a place that never existed in order to give the tourist a good story, meaning that this authenticity is completely staged.


    Concluding that the experience of an authentic heritage should be well chosen in order to make the tourists believe the real authenticity. With the interaction with locals who produce the products stories become more credible however, these can also be party staged in order to have economic benefits. Nevertheless, the answer on what is really authentic depends on the position and perspective of the tourists (Wang, 1999).



    - Cole, S. (2007). Beyond Authenticity and Commodification. Annals of Tourism Research, Vol. 34, No. 4, pp. 943-960.

    - Mkono, M. (2013). African and Western Tourists: Object Authenticity Quest? Annals of Tourism Research. Vol. 41, pp. 195-214.

    - Timothy, D. J. & Boyd, S. W. (2006). Heritage Tourism in the 21st Century: Valued Traditions and New Perspectives. Journal of Heritage Tourism. Vol. 1, No. 1, pp. 1-16.

    - Timothy, D. J. & Ron, A. S. (2013). Understanding heritage cuisines and tourism: identity, image, authenticity, and change. Journal of Heritage Tourism, Vol. 8, No. 2-3, pp. 99-104.

    - Wang, N (1999). Rethinking authenticity in tourism experience. Annals of Tourism Research, Vol. 26, No. 2, pp. 349-370.


    By Anoek Laarman

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