Public interpretation of archaeological heritage and archaeotourism in the Sultanate of Oman
University of Wales
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The literature demonstrates that archaeological heritage (AH) has been one of the main resources exploited for tourism since the early days of tourism and the communication of this heritage to different types of tourists through public interpretation (PIN) or presentation has become a vital element in constructing its interrelated myriad values. However, a number of controversial issues and challenges face PIN of AH need to be systematically studied in depth. Although, there is a considerable amount of research in PIN in relation to AH, the literature is general and sketchy in nature and integrated with other types of heritage resources, especially natural and living culture. Also, what is more important for this research is that there are shortcomings in studies relevant to the interpretation industry and professionalism in developing countries, including the case study of this research, the Sultanate of Oman. Although Oman is endowed with rich archaeological heritage, which is one of the major competitive-touristic products for Oman, the general public (i.e. local communities, the visitors, education sector, tour operators, etc) are unable to gain benefits and communicate the values of AH effectively both practically and intellectually. Partially, this is due to the lack of PIN for archaeological resources. Through a case study approach, this research explores the various challenges and issues behind this phenomenon especially that Oman endeavours to develop heritage tourism which represents a competitive source for the development of the tourism sector. Various sources of evidence are utilized, including field visits, governmental documents and interviews. By the end of this research it is hoped that two main aims are accomplished. The first is to identify the main problematic issues facing PIN of AH in Oman, especially in relative to archaeological tourism (archaeotourism). The second aim is to create a practical approach that aims at overcoming or minimizing the impact of these issues. The research findings point out three main influential and interdependent factors that affect the development and quality of PIN at archaeological sites; i.e.: the physical context; the stakeholders and stewardship context; the socio-cultural context. By utilizing previous practical and theoretical studies and based on the research findings, a new integrative approach for PIN, Integrated Contexts Public Interpretation (ICPI), is proposed to activate the role of PIN for AH and its wider context. Herein, it is hoped that the sustainability of this valuable heritage and its role as an attractive and beneficial element will be achieved. The posted recommendations at the end of this research provide insight and assisting guidelines for putting the proposed approach into practice. It is also hoped that this research fills a gap in the literature relative to PIN of AH, specifically in developing countries.
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