Here’s some food for thought regarding cultural tourism.
I have always insisted on visiting cultural and heritage sites on my travels however there seems to be mounting debate on whether governmental conservation efforts for tourism may actually contradict the cultural essence of the destination.
In the journal article Heritage Tourism: The contradictions between conservation and change, author Li Yiping comments that even if tourism agencies are able to conserve the physical authencity of a cultural destination, it is harder to reconstruct the way of life. This is because with modernisation, residents may not want to return to the harsh living conditions of the past.
This means that the preservation of the authencity of a cultural hotspot can be left up to the representation and narrative of the authority seeking to ‘sell’ the culture. What tourists see then may neither be accurate nor authentic.
This led me to think about things in Singapore which is part of our culture and is still living and breathing. And the first thing that came to my mind is eating. It is our national past time as most sources quote and as I look at our crowded, smoky and rowdy hawker centres in the evening, I muse at how western visitors might react to such a scene.
As much as we want to promote the cultural past of our country, the introduction of our present way of life which is uniquely ours – raucous gathering at food centres, high-rise community living in flats and congregating with half the population in overcrowded shopping centres during national holidays, should be equally represented.
In fact, as wet markets disappear in our economic evolution and may well be a thing of the past in the next 10 years, let’s bring our visitors from abroad to experience them ‘while stocks last’.
At least that’s my two cents worth.