Practice Question: Examine the impact of heritage tourism on urban socio-spatial patterns in India. (20 Marks) (UPSC 2017)

Approach: Introduction; Define Heritage tourism, list and elaborate on impacts pf heritage tourism on urban socio-spatial patterns; Conclusion.



The National Trust defines heritage tourism as “traveling to experience the places, artifacts, and activities that authentically represent the stories and people of the past and present.  It includes cultural, historic and natural resources” (National Trust for Historic Preservation, 2008).

Tourism may have different effects on the social and cultural aspects of life in a particular region depending on the strengths of the region. The effect can be positive or negative. Tours also focus on unique natural or geographical features like the coastline, islands, mountains, health resorts, countryside, etc. At such locations, the provision of tourist services and the pressure of tourists are bound to have impacts on the environment, economy, and local social practices and on the people.



Etymologically, the word tour is derived from the Latin ‘tornare’ and the Greek ‘tornos,’ meaning ‘a lathe or circle; the movement around a central point or axis.’ This meaning changed in modern English to represent ‘one’s turn.’ The suffix-ism is defined as ‘an action or process; typical behavior or quality’ whereas the suffix-ist denotes one that performs a given action. When the word tour and the suffixes-ism and-ist are combined, they suggest the action of movement around a circle. One can argue that a circle represents a starting point, which ultimately returns back to its beginning. Therefore, like a circle, a tour represents a journey that it is a round trip, i.e., the act of leaving and then returning to the original starting point, and therefore, one who takes such a journey can be called a tourist. There is some disagreement as when the word tourist first appeared in print. 



Preserving Local Culture


Strengthening Local Communities 

Provision of Social Services


Commercialisation of Culture and Art




  • Has the effect of diverting labor from the land, and from more traditional craft-based enterprises, threatening their existence
  • Impact on the quality of jobs and seasonality
  • Local people may be relocated to make space for tourism development
  • The danger of economically powerful groups emerging and the balance of power can shift from local decision-makers to national and international players
  • Decisions relating to the development, marketing, and promotion of the destination will not be made locally
  • Inflated prices in the shops and high land or property prices
  • Tourism has been associated with low moral standards including prostitution, crime, and gambling, although of course tourism is an easy target to blame here



Tourism is an invisible export in that it creates a flow of foreign currency into the economy of a destination country, thereby contributing directly to the current account of the balance of payments. Like other export industries, this inflow of revenue creates business turnover, household income, employment, and government revenue. However, the generation process does not stop at this point. Some portion of the money received by the business establishments, individuals, and government agencies is resent within the destination economy, thereby creating further rounds of economic activity. These secondary effects can in total considerably exceed in magnitude the initial direct effects. Indeed any study purporting to show the economic impact made by tourism must attempt to measure the overall effect made by the successive rounds of economic activity generated by the initial expenditure.



Whereas the virtues of international tourism have been extolled as a major force for peace and understanding between nations, the reality is often far removed from this utopian image. Long-haul travel between developed and developing countries is increasing annually and is bringing into direct contact with each other people from widely different backgrounds and with very contrasting lifestyles and levels of income. Where these disparities are very great, the political as well as the sociocultural consequences may be severe. In extreme cases international tourism has imposed a form of ‘neo-colonial’ type development on emerging nations. Quite simply, this neo-colonialism takes power from the local and regional levels and concentrates it into the hands of multinational companies. These companies will negotiate only at the national level and expect any ‘problems’ to be solved by national governments, otherwise investment will be withdrawn. At the operational level, the higher paid, more ‘respectable’ posts in hotels and other establishments are sometimes occupied by expatriates who possess the necessary expertise and experience. Although the lower paid, more menial jobs are frequently reserved for the indigenous population, it is possible that such apparent discrimination can foster resentment and can sour international relationships. In extreme cases such development can even inhibit the growth of a national consciousness in a newly dependent country. Domestic tourism, on the other hand, can act as an integrating force strengthening national sentiment. Peoples in outlying areas are traditionally more preoccupied with local village affairs and, in consequence, sometimes prove easy prey to separatist agitators. If, by travel to other parts of the same country, such people can begin to experience pride in their national heritage, a sense of national unity may help to prevent regional fragmentation.



 Tourism creates both positive and negative effects in the destination country or region. Thoughtful policy making and planning can do much to minimize or even remove the negative effects. Tourism can be a very positive means of increasing the economic, social, cultural, and environmental life of a country. The major issue now is can politicians, planners and developers, and citizens rise to the challenge and create a truly responsible Sharpley, and thus acceptable, tourism industry, one which brings long-term benefits to residents and tourists alike without compromising the physical and cultural environment of the destination region.



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