Tourism and Cultural Heritage Go Hand in Hand

Undoubtedly, you’ve wanted to see the most revered and picturesque sites of the world and bask in their ancient glory; but have you ever stopped to think about how the tourism industry is affecting the cultural heritage of the sites in question? What many do not know is that the business of tourism is responsible for the destruction of cultural patrimony all around the world.

What’s wrong with the tourist industry is that in most cases, it takes money out of the country to profit big businesses and in turn neglects the landscape and the environment, as well. A prime example of this is Cambodia with its stunning temples at Angkor Wat. While thousands flock to this site, the government uses tourist money to build contemporary hotels in the vicinity around the temples, rather than protecting the temples themselves. As a result, many of the ruins are sinking into the ground, and modern infrastructure is taking precedent.  If Cambodia put less stress on the profits of big businesses within the tourist industry, this predicament could be remedied.

Tourists gather at Angkor Wat.

Another sad example is the city of Venice. While over 20 million visitors swamp this site per year, it’s root population of less than 60,000 is being threatened by flooding—the land actually sinks about 2 to 3 mm (.08 to .012 inches) per year. Landmarks are at risk for being lost forever, and the surge of tourists the city experiences doesn’t help.

So, what’s the solution to all this? A lot can be changed by avoiding what experts call “drive-by tourism”—staying for a few hours, days at the most, and only appreciating the surface of the sites presented to them with little regard to the culture or people. Instead, tourists should focus on immersing themselves in the country, rather than exploiting the site to benefit their social media feeds.

However, it is worth noting that not all aspects of tourism are inherently corrupt. Tourism has economic and cultural impacts that actually help and sustain countries. The implications of such factors, though, are dependent on how the country manages them. In Costa Rica, for example, all tourism is turned into something called “eco-tourism”—a system which not only benefits the local economy, but protects the native wildlife, as well. Culturally, France has the right idea of how to handle tourism. While being the most popular destination in the world, it has not given into the overdevelopment of the landscape. Instead, they sustain their existing cultural heritage and put emphasis on the locals instead of tourists.

Tourists admire the ecosystem of Costa Rica.


Magraw, Leslie Trew. “Is Tourism Destroying the World?” Intelligent Travel. April 07, 2016. Accessed November 12, 2017.

Staff, Live Science. “Venice Menace: Famed City is Sinking & Tilting.” LiveScience. March 21, 2012. Accessed November 12, 2017.

Further Reading:

Becker, Elizabeth. “The Big Idea: How Tourism Can Destroy the Places We Love.” The Daily Beast. July 05, 2013. Accessed November 12, 2017.
“15 destinations ruined by tourism.” Tourisme autrement. August 16, 2010. Accessed November 12, 2017.


No Interest in War: The Harappan Civilization

Some ancient civilizations were renowned for their warfare techniques—the Chinese’s scale being evident with the discovery of the Terra Cotta Army, the Persians emerging as a military power under Cyrus the Great, and the Romans being famed for their discipline and innovation on the battle field. One civilization, however, might not have engaged in warfare at all, archaeologists speculate.

Depiction of the Harappan civilization, located in the Indus River Valley

This is the Harappan civilization that inhabited the Indus River valley some 5,000 years ago. Surviving for about two millennia, it is believed that this society survived without any major wars or conflicts, and is known to be one of the only ancient cities to do so. Archaeologists have never uncovered any signs of ash (indicating whether the city had ever been burned), weaponry, or even of an army itself.

What makes this especially profound is the prominence of army monuments in civilizations surrounding the Indus River Valley, such as those found in Mesopotamia. However, the fact that the Harappan society shows no traces of an army might be contingent on the fact that these were fairly migrant people. Through the analyzation of teeth found in burial grounds in Mohenjo-Daro (the largest city of the Harappan people), archaeologists discovered that many drank water from a source other than the immediate region, suggesting many people came and went from the city often.

Then what were the Harappan people so focused on besides warfare? Artifacts show that these people were very involved in the art of writing and even science. Markings on pottery show the transition from crude inscriptions to an extensive alphabet, and Harappan cities showcase a firm understanding of engineering, with urban areas built along strict grids and the standardization of bricks essential in the building of their structures.

Signs of character usage on a Harappan seal

So what was the Harappan’s demise, then, if it didn’t engage itself in warfare? Many speculate that rather than a quintessential “fall” within the society, it simply turned into a more nomadic group. This could have been caused by the arrival of the Aryan people in the area. Others suggest that the Harappan people simply shifted away from an urban, mercantile society, and instead adopted a more agricultural lifestyle, eventually merging with the Vedic culture of South Asia.

Whether or not this society was actually void of warfare is not entirely for certain, but through the use of culture history, more truths are slowly being discovered.

Additional reading: