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Difficulties to Preserve War Heritage Sites

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    War heritage is one form of cultural heritage and belongs to the so called “dark tourism” or “thanatourism” (Greek “thanatos” = personification of death (Corsane, 2005)), because it deals with human suffering, disasters and death (Timothy, Boyd, 2006). Being part of cultural tourism, it can be found where old constructions and natural and/or cultural assets are preserved and presented in a tourism framework (Heldt Cassel, Pashkevich, 2013). That is why it unites history, heritage, tourism and tragedy (Niemela, 2010 cited in Farmaki, 2013).

    One may question why such reminders of war and bad times should be kept and presented. It is important to tell “dark war stories” to learn from humans faults, discuss a nation’s history in public and to fit it in the current development worldwide. Moreover, destinations which use their war heritage can benefit from economic opportunities through primary (entrance fee, brochures, souvenir shop etc.) as well as secondary (dining, shopping, accommodation) tourist spendings (Aas, Ladkin, Fletcher, 2005; Heldt Cassel, Paskevich, 2013).

    However war heritage is about more than only economic profit. Indeed, “dark heritage” is essential and imprinting for many nations’ histories as well as the current development, e.g. Germany and the Nazi-history. Thus, many communities try to use their war heritage to spread their own story shaped by political ideologies and subjective perceptions (Timothy, Boyd, 2006). This can lead to further conflicts with the opponents of the happening, which e.g. can try to destroy the heritage (Timothy, Boyd, 2006). Therefore, war heritage sites can be even more endangered than others. Hence, one could call war sceneries socio-politically unstable destinations (Ioannides, Apostolopoulos, 1999). In addition to that, the decrease of public funds for heritage conservation as well as the urban development and modernization can cause further difficulties to preserve (war) heritage (Timothy, Boyd, 2006).

    Since war happens always between two parties, there is a high chance that war heritage sites belong to several owners (Timothy, Boyd, 2006; Timothy, Boyd, 2003). In this case past enemies have to cooperate and agree to establish successful war heritage tourism, what can evoke immense management challenges, if not even impossibilities (Timothy, Boyd, 2006; Farmaki, 2013).


    Case study: Nicosia (Cyprus) a City of Conflicts, Instead of Unique Multicultural Heritage Tourism                                                             Figure 1: Map of Cyprus

    Map_Cyprus_2007.gifThe Mediterranean island state Cyprus is since the Turkish invasion in 1974 divided in the Republic of Cyprus in the south (Greek  Cypriots) and the Turkish occupied north of the island (Turkish Cypriots) (Ioannides, Apostolopoulos, 1999). The country is  shared by a buffer zone of the United Nations (UN), which is called the “green line” (Harms, Kagermeier, 2013). The capital of the  island, Nicosia (Greek Cypriot and official name)/ Lefkosia (Turkish Cypriot name), is located within this buffer zone and divided by fences, emplacements with embrasures and UN guard towers as it can be seen in the pictures below (Harms, Kagermeier, 2013). In  2008 the gates of “the Wall” in Nicosia were opened to make cross-border tourism possible for locals as well as foreigners (Harms,  Kagermeier, 2013). However, due to the still ongoing conflict and ignorance, the preservation of both nationalities’ heritage and  culture is very difficult. Many researchers analyzed how unique and successful Nicosia’s tourism industry could be moving forward  from war heritage to unique multicultural heritage (Harms, Kagermeier, 2013; Kaufmann, Gronau, Sakkadas, 2011). However, since the conflict in Cyprus bases on a long history, on cultural as well as religious differences, the two groups of Cypriots do not only have to overcome political disagreements, but also be able to unite their different lives.                                                                                                                                            Source:

    That is why there is so far no big hope to overcome the fundamental issues in Cyprus during the next years and therewith the country wastes economic, social and also environmental opportunities due to not only a history but also a present of disagreement and division. The question is it if is ever possible to join two cultures and two different believes in one nation, as countries like Lebanon, Ireland and Egypte prove the opposite.

    Figure 2: House facade in battlefield in northern Nicosia


    Source: own photograph, 2013


    Figure 3: Landscape with Greek Cypriot flag in front, "green line" along the trees and Turkish Cypriot Flag in the back.


    Source: own photograph, 2013


    Figure 4: Visa for tourists who want to enter the northern part of Nicosia


    Source: own photograph, 2013


    Figure 5 & Figure 6: buffer zone/green line with UN guard house

    DSCF9104.JPG DSCF9121.JPG

      Source: own photograph, 2013



    Aas, C., Ladkin, A., Fletcher, J. (2005) Stakeholder Collaboration and Heritage Management. Annals of Tourism Research, 32 (1), pp. 28-48.

    Corsane, G. (2005) Heritage, Museums and Galleries: An Introductory Reader. Routledge. p. 266.

    Erdmenger, E. (2013) Experiences during a two-week research excursion around the island Cyprus about the touristic development of the destination Cyprus. Contact:

    Farmaki, A. (2013) Dark tourism revisited: a supply/demand conceptualization. International Journal of Culture, Tourism and Hospitality Research, 7(3), pp.281-292.

    Harms, T., Kagermeier, A. (2013) Closed borders and wasted opportunities: the case of Cyprus. Thimm, T. [Publisher] Tourismus und Grenzen. Mannheim: Verlag MetaGIS-Systems, pp.13-26.

    Hartmann, R. (2014) Dark tourism, thanatourism, and dissonance in heritage tourism management: new directions in contemporary tourism research. Journal of Heritage Tourism, 9 (2), pp.166-182.

    Heldt Cassel, S., Pashkevich, A. (2013) World heritage and Tourism Innovation: Institutional Frameworks and Local Adaptation. European Planning Studies. [Online] Available from: [Accessed 14/11/15].

    Ioannides, D., Apostolopoulos, Y. (1999) Political Instability, War and Tourism in Cyprus: Effects, Menegement, and Prospects for Recovery. Journal of Travel Research, 38(51), pp.51-56.

    Kaufmann, R., Gronau, W., Sakkadas, S. (2011) Nicosia – Concerted Retailing and Tourism Strategies To Awaken a Neglected And Sleeping Beauty. Tourismos: An International, Multidisciplinary Journal of Tourism. 6(1), pp.15-29.

    Timothy, D. J., Boyd, S.W. (2003) Heritage Tourism. Edinburgh Gate: Pearson Education Limited.

    Timothy, D. J., Boyd, S.W. (2006) Heritage Tourism in the 21st Century: Valued Traditions and New Perspectives. Journal of Heritage Tourism, 1(1), pp.1-16.


    Map: (2007) Asia: Maps of Cyprus [Online] Available from: [Accessed: 14/11/22].



    Erdmenger, E. (2013) Experiences during a two-week research excursion around the island Cyprus about the touristic development of the destination Cyprus. Contact:


    Written by Eva Erdmenger

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    Comments (6)

    Viewing 6 of 6 comments: view all
    I think it's really important to convey the message of human flaws troughout history. Wars are a very clear example.In addition ,I like as well the example you have chosen to emphasize your argument. Cyprus is very depending on tourism and therefore the preservation of heritage is more than functional.
    Posted 20:59, 24 Nov 2014
    Thank you Sanne. I totally agree with you! Wars are our history and base on conflicts, problems arose and could not be solved so people fought - most of the times very cruelly. We sould sure keep the stories and happenings somehow alive. But the question is - bring tourists to such places? What does it mean for Jewish people if curious people visit the concentration camp where Nazis tried to break up their religious folk and Germans/Polish now make money out of that? I think it is a very sensitive, but highly interesting topic with a lot potential for discussions. The money turned over by tourism could be used in advantage of the people and they should also be able to be part of the story telling, the perspective etc. if they want to. Like I said, very sensitive and interesting topic!
    However, concering Cyprus, do you think they would benefit more from presenting Nicosia as the last divided city in the world with something like a wall, not really war anymore, but for sure tension and conflicts, or do you think it would be better to overcome this, unite the capital and then sell the product of an unique bi-cultural city? Both is heritage I guess...
    Posted 21:48, 24 Nov 2014
    Hey Eva,

    It was interesting to read your essay. You made a lot of efforts, with numerous references. Cyprus is a good example, keeping in mind that the conflict is just frozen, but not really overcame. But, tourism is still going on there and Cyprus is very famous as 3S destination, thus the on-going conflict probably did not affect largely the image of Cyprus.

    As the heritage refers to the past, in this case probably it will take more time so that war heritage became tourist attraction. I guess that in every situation war heritage comes after the war (including the ending of every tension and consequences of conflict), while before it is just one morbid type of tourism, often referred as 'war tourism', when visitors are seeking to feel the real war and conflicts while it is happening...

    Posted 02:47, 29 Nov 2014
    Thank you Vladimir for your reflection.
    Firstly, it is true that Cyprus is focused on Sun&Sea tourism and that most of these tourists are not even really aware or interested in the political tension in this country. However, the Cyprus Tourism Organisation (CTO, responsible for southern part) tries to diversify their product aiming for cultural, wine, rural and hiking tourism, since the S&S tourism is not successful enough due to the Mediterranean competition and to flight short-cuts from several airlines.

    Secondly, thanks for sharing this very interesting point of view about when war heritage leads to war tourism. So you would claim that people who travel to the buffer zone in Cyprus, cross it and look at the leftovers of the conflict are not yet "war tourists" because the conflict is only frozen, but not finished? I am actually not sure if I completely agree with that viewpoint, even if I think it's a very interesting interpretation.
    Apart from Cyprus, people who travel to places e.g. in Isreal to see heritage of former or also current wars (I mean heritage does not always need to be hundreds of years old, right?!), religious heritage which can be connected to wars, in my opinion that is war tourism as well, even if tension, conflicts and its consequences are still existing. I think they are in fact a very curious and veneturous type of war tourists.
    Posted 16:20, 29 Nov 2014
    Well, I just got inspired after reading your article and start thinking about using war as a heritage.

    More or less, you are right, but my point was that there is a big difference from tourists attracted by some war heritage (which I think is the type of heritage tourism) and those who are visiting some places of contemporary conflicts in order to feel the real war (which I refer as war tourism). The first is usually protected and designed as a post-war heritage and the latter is not, because it is still part of the present. Even in Israel, people would mostly travel to do sightseeing or because of spiritual reasons, but those who are motivated by still active conflict I would list in the other group, as morbid and socially undesirable. So, the motives are very important, which I guess is the case and big issue when it comes to all dark tourism attractions... edited 04:36, 30 Nov 2014
    Posted 04:29, 30 Nov 2014
    Yes that is true. Good explanaition and differentiation; now I can follow your idea a bit better :-) There might be a few sub-groups, many different motives (--> my other article ;-) ) and thus war heritage tourists are not just war heritage tourists. And like I read so far the motives and this kind of tourist group are not much examined/evaluated yet, because it is such a sensitive topic.
    Posted 21:32, 30 Nov 2014
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