What is Cultural Tourism?
Cultural Tourism, also known as cultural heritage tourism, “is travel to experiencing the arts, heritage, and the special character of unique places.”

This definition emerged from the 1995 White House Conference on Travel and Tourism, which declared United States involvement in this worldwide phenomenon a national priority-a way to link support of American cultural institutions with economic development goals for the nation.

Why is cultural tourism an economic development tool?

  • In communities across the nation, cultural tourism has generated business opportunities for local entrepreneurs, created new jobs, and expanded markets for the arts.
  • Cultural tourism activity in Pennsylvania totals more than $5 billion, supports 69,000 jobs paying $1 .34 billion, and generates $615 million in tax revenue for state and local governments (Greater Philadelphia Tourism Marketing Corporation, 2003).
  • Cultural Tourism in New York City increased to 16.9 million in 2002, accounting for nearly half of all visitors, according to NYC & Company. Spending by cultural visitors accounted for $7.6 billion that year.
  • Cultural Tourism has the added benefit of promoting pride and enhancing quality of life for local residents.

Why is cultural tourism important for Washington, DC?

  • Tourism and hospitality are the number one private-sector industries in the District of Columbia. They support 260,000 jobs and generate $9.6 billion annually in economic impact in the DC Metropolitan area, despite the fact that most visitors patronize free museums and shop in tax-free shops on the Mail (Office of the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development,2000).
  • Cultural Tourism is the fastest growing segment of the tourism industry, representing 81% of domestic travelers or 118 million travelers (The Historic/Cultural Traveler, 2003 Edition, Travel Industry Association of America and Smithsonian Magazine).
  • 66% of these cultural travelers want to visit historic places and museums, while 45% want to participate in cultural events and festivals (The Historic/Cultural Traveler). The District’s downtown and neighborhoods are rich in the kinds of cultural tourism sites and authentic experiences those visitors are seeking.
  • Cultural tourists spent an average of $623 per trip in 2003 (The Historic/Cultural Traveler). The economic potential of cultural tourism is significant: if only 5% of the city’s 19 million visitors stayed one more day in Washington to explore the city’s diverse attractions, they would bring an additional $114 million to the local economy each year.

Adapted from
Cultural Tourism DC