Her­itage tourism:

Kuwait Times - - L IFESTYLE -

Luong La’s fam­ily fled the com­mu­nist regime in Viet­nam in 1979. Now a fa­ther of three liv­ing in Santa Bar­bara, Cal­i­for­nia, he and his wife de­cided they wanted to spend one of their fam­ily va­ca­tions bring­ing the kids back to his na­tive coun­try to learn about it. So they spent a month on a her­itage tourism trip to the South­east Asian coun­try to visit not just tra­di­tional tourist sites but also the places where he had grown up in the Mekong Delta.

“My hus­band thought that by see­ing the places he had grown up in, the kids would have a bet­ter un­der­stand­ing of him,” said Luong’s wife, Michelle Robin La. “My hus­band’s ex­tended fam­ily keeps their her­itage alive in Amer­ica with food, lan­guage and cel­e­bra­tions like the Lu­nar New Year. By trav­el­ing in Viet­nam for a month we im­mersed the kids in the place these tra­di­tions came from.” Their fam­ily trip to Viet­nam is an ex­am­ple of her­itage tourism, which The National Trust for His­toric Preser­va­tion de­fines as trav­el­ing to ex­pe­ri­ence a place, ar­ti­facts and ac­tiv­i­ties that au­then­ti­cally rep­re­sent the sto­ries and peo­ple of the past and present.

Au­then­tic ex­pe­ri­ences Her­itage tourism sites can be as var­ied as a re­vi­tal­ized down­town or a Civil War trail. “For a num­ber of years, the idea was to build in­ter­states and get peo­ple to where they’re go­ing and then peo­ple grad­u­ally be­gan to re­al­ize they were miss­ing out on some­thing - au­then­tic ex­pe­ri­ences,” said Carolyn Brack­ett with The National Trust for His­toric Preser­va­tion’s Cul­tural Her­itage Pro­gram. “And that’s a word that we hear over and over that peo­ple want a feel­ing of au­then­tic­ity, mean­ing they want a sense of place.”

As trav­el­ers be­came more in­ter­ested in au­then­tic ex­pe­ri­ences, com­mu­ni­ties and of­fi­cials are tak­ing no­tice, ask­ing what they can do to share their story, Brack­ett said. A 2013 national sur­vey con­ducted by Man­dala Re­search showed that 76 per­cent of all leisure trav­el­ers in the US will take part in some sort of cul­tural or her­itage ac­tiv­ity while they are trav­el­ing, Brack­ett said. That trans­lates to 130 mil­lion peo­ple.

Tourism boards and sites are tak­ing note. In Ok­la­homa, the state’s Tourism and Re­cre­ation Depart­ment has re­leased a guide and web por­tal about the state’s African-Amer­i­can his­tory and her­itage sites. The Texas His­tor­i­cal Com­mis­sion has re­leased a free 100-page guide show­cas­ing the state’s His­panic her­itage sites. Aside from well-known des­ti­na­tions like the Alamo, the Texas guide, which is or­ga­nized by ge­o­graphic re­gions and was re­leased in May, in­cludes off-the-beaten path sites as well, said Chris Flo­rance, spokesman for the Texas His­tor­i­cal Com­mis­sion. “The His­panic cul­tures have left their im­print on the state for 500 years, and it has im­pacted al­most every as­pect of Texas cul­ture - cer­tainly our his­tory, ar­chi­tec­ture, mu­sic. It’s just such a vi­tal and im­por­tant part of our his­tory and where we are to­day and where we’re go­ing as a state,” he said. The com­mis­sion has also re­leased a mo­bile app so vis­i­tors can ac­cess the­matic tours, in­clud­ing one fo­cused on AfricanAmer­i­can her­itage sites in Texas.

Fam­ily’s her­itage

“There’s an enor­mous in­ter­est in her­itage tourism. It’s a re­ally im­por­tant part of Texas’ tourist econ­omy,” he said, adding that an eco­nomic im­pact study found that about 10 per­cent of travel in Texas is re­lated to cul­tural her­itage. Maresa Thomp­son has taken sev­eral trips based around cul­tural her­itage, most no­tably a trip to Ire­land and Eng­land to see stone for­ma­tions and other an­cient sites. Thomp­son’s an­ces­tors were Queen Vic­to­ria’s Ir­ish body­guards, she said, and she de­scribes her­self as be­ing more in­ter­ested in mu­se­ums, his­tory and cul­ture than in other types of sight­see­ing.

Thomp­son’s grand­fa­ther em­i­grated from Cze­choslo­vakia and she next hopes to take a trip to the re­gion to learn more about that part of her fam­ily’s her­itage. “All travel en­riches your life, but the con­trived travel - the Ve­gas and the Dis­ney­land and all of that - just doesn’t ap­peal to me as much as it does re­ally think­ing I have an­ces­tors or peo­ple in my lin­eage who came and pos­si­bly could have stayed here be­fore,” said Thomp­son, who lives in Al­bu­querque, New Mex­ico, and is the cre­ative direc­tor for Her­itage Ho­tels & Re­sorts, a group of ho­tels that show­case New Mex­ico’s his­tory, art and cul­ture. “I think it’s just a deeper, holis­tic ex­pe­ri­ence for travel.”— AP

In this Oc­to­ber 2011 photo pro­vided by Maresa Thomp­son, Thomp­son ex­am­ines a stone cir­cle in Corn­wall, United King­dom.

This 2007 photo pro­vided by Michelle Robin La shows her, rear left, with her hus­band Luong La and their three chil­dren at the Citadel in Hue, Viet­nam. — AP pho­tos

Photo shows a church un­der dark skies in Vladimir, Rus­sia, with crosses sil­hou­et­ted atop a clus­ter of onion domes.

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