UCL Institute for Sustainable Heritage


Mina Dragouni

Thesis title:  Sustainable Heritage Tourism: Towards a Community-led Planning Approach

Primary supervisor: Dr Kalliopi Fouseki 
Secondary supervisor: Professor May Cassar
Starting date: September 2013
Projected completion date: September 2017

In my PhD project, I explore how destinations can employ their local heritage to attract visitors and stimulate economic and socio-cultural development in a sustainable manner. The preservation and promotion of local cultural heritage can play a major role in creating unique tourism experiences and promoting economic growth and social wellbeing. However, as it is currently witnessed in various parts of the world, uncontrolled tourism activity can lead to considerable environmental, social and cultural costs, such as the degradation of heritage sites, undesirable change or extreme commodification. Within this context sustainability becomes extremely relevant with sustainable heritage tourism aiming to balance economic benefits with impacts on host communities, heritage assets and the environment. 

The study is particularly interested in examining how the strategic development of heritage tourism can accommodate the active involvement of destination host communities and allow for their meaningful collaboration with heritage tourism managers. Local communities are heavily affected by tourism activity and their contribution can be particularly valuable in achieving consensus and long-term commitment to sustainability goals. Although the theoretical grounds of community involvement are well set, tourism studies have been slow to develop and apply participatory techniques at a practical level. Presently heritage tourism professionals and destination managers have relatively few tools to realise community participation at a site level. Thus, this project aspires to fill this void by building a methodological framework for community participation in heritage tourism planning and management. The research follows a case-study approach and it is currently focused on Kastoria, a small lakeside mountain city in Greece, with the view to gain an in-depth understanding of the challenges and complexities of pursuing sustainability in a real setting-destination.