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

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 from 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 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.

Tourism, is one of the most rapidly growing sectors in the world in regard to economical, technological and social transformations. Architecture and tourism can actually be said to depend on each other. Their mutual relationship is obvious since ancient times where the architecture, as a tourist attraction, had a very important role.  Temples have been built in honour of the gods, grand theatres, stadiums, the Colosseum and other monumental public buildings attracted large crowds as they represented the culture and society in which they arose. Architecture is a means of expression for the cultural diversity and innovative potential of a region, and tourism, as industry, directly helps to preserving of 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 on 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 on history and heritage of a place. With the out-burst of tourism industry, these places are now being identified, restored and promoted vigorously. Tourism sector is one of the main source of income for any country. To boost tourism, a huge amount money is invested to preserve the local heritage and architecturally prime places, to improve the infrastructure of the city and the connectivity within in, 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 of 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 provided a lot of employment opportunities and has been a boon to the locals. Tourism is as much important for the locals as for the 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 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 caused the city’s identity to be destroyed or lose significance. When a tourist enters a city, he is basically lost, or is bombarded with various versions of ‘identity of a city’ that he does not have a clear picture about the place and its roots.

Several architects and planners viewed an opportunity to affect the reconstruction of old heritage areas of the cities, using money from tourism activity and thus gaining more ultimately. But the important question that arises is, “What kind of Reconstruction?”  Should they be in accordance with historical patterns and spirit of that area, or if they are going to project with 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 will be classic yet might 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.

Any development must be sustainable, in terms of cultural and economic aspects.  Nowadays, countries, cities and all heritage zones are promoting tourism in a way to develop sustainable tourism policies and practices which will make optimal respect to the socio-cultural communities and cultural costumes that will provide, in the future, benefits for that place. At that juncture and with those benefits, they could use the money to reconstruct old heritage houses. With this action we could keep, on one side, the memory of the place and cultural costumes, and on the other side, attract more tourists.

Lately there has been a major transformation as until a few decades, historical heritage were the basis of cultural and architectural tourism, today excellent Modern architecture has the same power of attraction, turning cities into a new tourist attraction.

Dubai – “City of Extravagance” is the best example for this scenario. It is very apparent as well as astonishing to see the transformation that this city has seen over last few decades (Thanks to oil), 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 a most important role. This is an example of modern branding of the city by the imposing architecture.  The building itself becomes an attraction, a great advertising that its form points to the leisure facilities, but when placed in the context of the city, the region and the environment in which it is located, it becomes a symbol of n 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 weaves the story of that particular time during which it was built.

There is no denial in case of Tourism and Architecture, “Neither can live while the other dies”, it is also important make sure the negative impacts of it all is identified and mitigated. All these developments and promotion can lead to a lot of ecological and economical imbalance with sudden increase in population and also destruction of natural environment. It can also dilution of culture, due to a lot of influence and might lead in losing the originality of the place. But, when even a penny has two sides, why not a Multi-billion industry. It is our at most duty to flip the coin and make use of even the flip side.


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

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