While tourism scholars and practitioners tend to assign positive values to visits of cultural heritage as “a shared common good by which everyone benefits” (Silverman and Ruggles, 2007, p. 3), the examples in this chapter provide evidence of the contentious entanglement of heritage tourism with universalist cultural ideologies, state power and localised abuse of human rights. The case of Guatemala’s Maya Biosphere Reserve shows how contrasting visions about tourism, heritage conservation and environmental protection can lead to entrenched conflicts between communities and other actors, in this case archaeologists, corporations, drug barons, the national government and politicians from a foreign power. The case studies from China demonstrate how the designation of World Heritage Sites and associated tourism developments have led to restrictions on traditional livelihood activities and the resettlement of populations, resulting in protracted tensions between the government, corporate actors and local communities. The case of the Angkor Archaeological Park in Cambodia testifies to the colonial legacies of cultural heritage management and shows how the interpretations and regulations imposed by non-Cambodians (e.g. UNESCO, bilateral donors, Western archaeologists) marginalises contemporary Cambodian culture, silences local voices, and infringes on local residents’ rights to property and adequate housing. The inherent conflict between universal heritage and local rights is also evidenced in the cases of Buenos Aires’ La Boca district and the ancient Inca capital Cuzco where a combination of violent state-led gentrification and market forces has evicted
Cultural heritage tourism 161 residents and informal vendors from the city centres to the urban fringes. Their livelihoods have become increasingly precarious due to the lack of basic amenities and economic opportunities.
Such processes of gentrification are further examined in the next chapter which discusses how sports mega-events and large-scale tourism infrastructure projects for airports and railways have been used to legitimise urban ‘beautification’ schemes, forced land acquisitions and involuntary resettlements. Examples from South Africa, Brazil, India, Laos and Mexico will show the destructive impacts such processes have had on local livelihoods and cultures.
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