Heritage tourism

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Heritage tourism involves visiting historical or industrial sites that may include old canals, railways, battlegrounds, etc. The overall purpose is to gain an appreciation of the past.

It also refers to the marketing of a location to members of a diaspora who have distant family roots there.

Heritage tourism is distinct from visiting a family member in a faraway place because the connection to the original homeland is removed; a recent Irish immigrant to the US, for example, may return home to see relatives but would probably not be considered a heritage tourist. On the other hand, an Irish-American whose family emigrated in the 19th century, also going to Ireland but rather to see the country generally, would be partaking in heritage tourism.

This is particularly relevant to European areas where large numbers of people emigrated to North America in the 19th century and early 20th century. People from Quebec have been moving back and forth to France for centuries in fairly significant numbers, as have their counterparts with ties to the British Isles and other countries for more recent immigrants. Other examples include Black/African Americans who visit Africa and Hispanics who visit Spain.

The purpose can be education, fun, marriage, employment, etc. Permanent emigration tied to heritage tourism is less common but increasing.

Decolonization and immigration form the major background of much contemporary heritage tourism. Falling travel costs have also made heritage tourism possible for more people.

Another possible form involves religious travel or pilgrimages. Many Catholics from around the world come to the Vatican and other sites such as Lourdes or Fátima. Large numbers of Jews have both visited Israel and emigrated there. Many have also gone to Holocaust sites and memorials. Islam commands its followers to take the hajj to Mecca, thus differentiating it somewhat from tourism in the usual sense, though the trip can also be a culturally important event for the pilgrim.

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