Tourism is a scenario to “familiarize a city for an unfamiliar audience and gain identity for the citizen”,  while Architecture “is an expression of lifestyle and spirit of the epochs and cultures in which it arises”.  Both Architecture and tourism have been inter-linked since time immemorial. Architecture has been the major aspect of crowd pull, while tourism has been helped architecture survive through the test of time (as well as money).  Both tourism and architecture work in a symbiotic manner to break the unfamiliarity of any culture and provide the original essence of the place, its culture, and its evolution through a chronological approach.

“Architecture is a visual art, and the buildings speak for themselves”

Julia Morgan

Tourism is one of the most rapidly growing sectors in the world with regard to economical, technological and social transformations. The mutual relationship between architecture and tourism is obvious since ancient times where architecture, as a tourist attraction, had a very important role.  Temples have been built in honor of the gods, grand theatres, stadiums, the Colosseum and other monumental public buildings that attracted large crowds as they represented the culture and society. Architecture is a means of expression for the cultural diversity and innovative potential of a region, and tourism, as an industry, directly helps to preserve architecture.

Tourism and architecture never before were as closely connected as is the case today. There has been a huge spike in “Heritage Tourism”, which has seen sudden interests in ancient history and the heritage.

“Architecture is the prime and unquestionable source of HISTORY”

Thus, it is apparent that tourists turn to architecture to quench their thirst for the history and heritage of a place. With the outburst of the tourism industry, these places are now being identified, restored and promoted vigorously. The tourism sector is one of the main sources of income for any country. To boost tourism, the huge amount of money is invested to preserve the local heritage and architecturally prime places, to improve the infrastructure of the city and the connectivity within, to provide better leisure facilities, and thus a better experience for the tourists. This, in turn, improves the lifestyle for the locals as well.

Tourism has been one of the leading sectors as a source of employment for the citizens. Being a service sector, it needs a lot of people to manage, maintain as well as promote tourism. From providing transportation and accommodation to food, guided tours, and maintenance, tourism provides a lot of employment opportunities and has been a boon to the locals. Tourism is as important for the locals as tourists. It strengthens the identity of the citizen, makes them feel connected to the place and reassures their affinity to their land. Tourism has the potential to promote faster, sustainable and more inclusive growth. It could be used as a powerful antidote to tackle poverty. It is one of the biggest service sectors which promote the growth of both the physical and metaphysical demands of the user.  It has also helped improve the lifestyle of local craftsmen and artists and in-turn the ART itself. This again closes the circle of mutual success.

Rapid urbanization has in many cases,  destroyed the identity of cities. When a tourist enters a city, he is basically lost or is bombarded with various versions of the ‘identity of a city’ that he does not have a clear picture of the place and its roots.

Several architects and planners have been working on the reconstruction of old heritage areas of the cities. But the important question that arises is, “What kind of Reconstruction?”  Should it be in accordance with historical patterns and spirit of that area, or if it should project the new and modern shapes and layouts, with the modern framework? At first glance, the idea of restoring according to old-style may appear anti-modernist, while maintaining the original design classic, yet it could be monotonous with no element of surprise and wonder. A new concept called “Retrofitting” has surfaced, in which, a modern “Contrasting, yet complimenting” element is added to the old heritage structures, thus retaining the old, and giving it the new vibrancy it needs.

Architecture has always been the major source of attraction, be it heritage architecture or Modern architecture, as in the case of Dubai.

Dubai – “City of Extravagance” is the best example of this scenario. It is very apparent as well as astonishing to see the transformation that this city has seen over the last few decades, to become one of the top tourist destinations in the world.  However, it is well known that today oil plays a very small role in the overall revenues of the state, while tourism and trade play the most important role. This is an example of modern branding of the city by the imposing architecture.  The building itself becomes an attraction, and thus a symbol of the city, region, country, society.

Dubai Tourism

From the Pyramids, Temples of Ancient India and China, Statue of Liberty to Burj Khalifa, all have been the identity of the place and weave the story of the time they were built in.


Akshaya Murali, an architect thriving to share her stories and thoughts, one article at a time.