By: Edwin Fuller
Founder and President of Laguna Strategic Advisors
I like to think it all began more than 2,000 years ago when the Egyptian Queen, Cleopatra, enticed first Julius Caesar, then Marc Antony, on a lavish cruise along the fertile agricultural banks of the Nile River to show off the royal splendors of Luxor’s Valley of the Kings. She wanted both of these Roman luminaries to understand the relevance and strength of Egypt in its own right and not to view the country as a conquered part of the Roman Empire.
Since then, royal palaces and historic or cultural monuments like the Hermitage in Russia, the Great Wall in China or the Buddhist temples at Cambodia’s Angkor Wat have ranked among the most powerful lures countries and local communities alike have in their promotional arsenal to attract the growing number of tourists interested in experiencing the authentic places, artifacts and activities of the past.
Heritage Tourism is big business globally today. Here in the US, learning about our country’s past ranks among the top three reasons people travel domestically. In fact, more than 80% of all US leisure travelers participate in Heritage Tourism activities annually, spending more than $1,000 thousand per trip and contributing more than $200 billion to the US economy.
Britain Masterfully Capitalizes On Its Heritage
No country has monetized the value of its royal heritage better than the Brits. From castles like Highclere that served as Downton Abbey in the recent TV smash hit, to Stonehenge, Britain has capitalized on a myriad array of festivals, places of interest, ceremonies and Jubilees to successfully create reasons for people to visit – the result being that events and activities centered around their royal family bring in close to $1 billion annually in foreign tourism receipts.
Think about it. If you’ve ever traveled to London, I’m sure you managed to weave in at least one opportunity to see royalty in action – even if it was only to witness the pomp and ceremony of the Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace. And, who can forget the 30-second clip of Queen Elizabeth II taking part in a sketch with James Bond during the 2012 Olympics opening ceremony from London? By any measure, her participation in the clip captured the public’s mood of the moment – a sense of unity and pride. It was a brilliant PR coup!
The power of the British royal family to attract tourism extends far beyond the borders of the UK. In late 2012, at London’s gigantic annual World Travel Market, Romanian tourism sought to attract UK visitors by publicizing ancestral ties between their long-ago Prince of Wallachia (or Vlad III, better known as “Vlad the Impaler”) and the British Royal Family.
In India, states like Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh boast scores of huge palaces and landed properties that were built in an exotic style with historical importance. Appealing to the fantasies and imaginations of tourists with a love of history, these palaces were the seats of power of the ruling maharaja class. At Independence in 1947, the maharajas lost many of their privileges (but not their wealth) and to help maintain these beautiful testaments to their glorious past, they turned them into hotels. Today, many of these hotels are part of the Taj hotel chain and are outstanding testaments to days gone by, offering service levels guaranteed to make any visitor feel like maharajas and maharanis for a day.
Not to be outdone, Queen Margrethe II of Denmark rules over Europe’s oldest kingdom and a country that is home to Hans Christian Anderson. Denmark is often marketed as a “fairytale country” and Kronborg Castle at Helsingor is famous for its association with Shakespeare’s Hamlet. And, what would a riverboat cruise along the Danube be without its castles from the pre-World War I Hapsburg Empire. It’s hard not to hear a Strauss waltz somewhere in the distance.
Tweets In Real-Time Recreate Russia’s 1917 Revolution
Russia takes its history and anniversaries seriously. Each year, the country commemorates its important dates in grand style and no year figures more importantly that this one, the 100th anniversary of the end of the Romanov Dynasty and their more than 300-year reign. In recent years, the Russian government has resurrected and romanticized personalities from its czarist past (the doomed Czar Nicholas II is now portrayed as a martyr) while at the same time appealing to national pride. Thus, among events planned to help celebrate the 100thanniversary is state media RT’s Twitter campaign recreating the events of the 1917 revolution in real time. Hundreds of important figures from that year – including the doomed czar, Vladimir Lenin and Leon Trotsky – each of whom has his or her own Twitter account which is updated several times daily to replicate the turmoil of 1917 in live tweets. The project has enabled the Kremlin to shape the public’s view of the events of 1917 and covers the full range of perspectives of the momentous year.
Does Russia expect the celebration to boost tourism? You bet! Tourism officials at the recent MITT travel trade show in Moscow predicted a 20% increase in visitor arrivals over the next four years.
Every country, state, town and hamlet has a story about its past that someone wants to hear or experience. Tell yours, and they will come!