The Authenticity Discourse of Heritage

Lengkeek, Jaap


Authenticity plays a key-role in discussions about the significance of tourism & tourist experiences. Attractions 'made' for tourists are considered not to be authentic, but staged, newly created, & not genuine. Only where the past can be presented 'as it was,' the tourist is able to see something 'real'. This basically creates a tension between tourism production & heritage conservation. The attractive heritage sites must have characteristics of history & traditions, which motivate tourists to visit those places. Often the definitions of heritage tourism place the concept of authenticity at the heart of this type of tourism, as authenticity links the genuine characteristics of a site to the longing of heritage tourists for the real past. The scientific debates on the phenomena of heritage tourism only show a gradual increasing intensity, even though the interest of a wide audience in historic sites has become almost self-evident. Different themes emerge, such as the process of designation as heritage, conflicts between conservation & development, heritage management dilemmas & conceptual frameworks. The paper aims at finding a solution for the tension as mentioned before, moving beyond the authenticity concept.