Tourism and Intangible Cultural Heritage

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Intangible Cultural Heritage is embodied in those practices, expressions, knowledge, and skills - as well as in associated objects and cultural spaces - that communities and individuals recognize as part of their cultural heritage. Transmitted through generations and constantly recreated, it provides humanity with a sense of identity and continuity.*

The Global Code of Ethics for Tourism (Article 4) prescribes the protection of natural, artistic, archaeological and cultural heritage, to allow traditional cultural products, crafts and folklore to survive and flourish, rather than causing them to degenerate and become standardised.
*Definition based on the 2003 UNESCO convention on the Safeguarding of Intangible Cultural Heritage

Intangible Cultural Heritage and Tourism

The global wealth of traditions is one of the principal motivations for travel, with tourists seeking to engage with new cultures and to experience the global variety of performing arts, handicrafts, rituals and cuisines. The cultural interaction spurred by such encounters prompts dialogue, builds understanding, and fosters tolerance and peace.

Fostering the responsible use of this living heritage for tourism purposes can generate employment, alleviate poverty, curb rural flight migration, and nurture a sense of pride among communities.

Tourism offers a powerful incentive for preserving and enhancing intangible cultural heritage, since the revenue it generates can be channelled back into initiatives to aid its long-term survival. Intangible cultural heritage must be thoughtfully managed if it is to flourish in an increasingly globalized world. Only true partnerships between communities and the tourism and heritage sectors, built on a genuine appreciation for the aspirations and values of all parties, can ensure its survival.

UNWTO Study on Tourism and Intangible Cultural Heritage  

The first UNWTO Study on Tourism and Intangible Cultural Heritage provides comprehensive baseline research on the interlinkages between tourism and the expressions and skills that make up humanity’s intangible cultural heritage (ICH).  For a Summary of the Study, please click here. (Photo credit of the Summary's cover page:

The publication explores major challenges, risks and opportunities for tourism development related to ICH, while suggesting practical steps for the development and marketing of ICH-based tourism products.

Through a compendium of case studies drawn from across five continents, the report offers in-depth information on, and analysis of, government-led actions, public-private partnerships and community initiatives.

These practical examples feature tourism development projects related to six pivotal areas of ICH: handicrafts and the visual arts; gastronomy; social practices, rituals and festive events; music and the performing arts; oral traditions and expressions; and, knowledge and practices concerning nature and the universe.

Highlighting innovative forms of policy-making, the UNWTO Study on Tourism and Intangible Cultural Heritage recommends specific actions for stakeholders to foster the sustainable and responsible development of tourism by incorporating and safeguarding intangible cultural assets.

To access the Study on UNWTO's e-library, please visit:

Click here to view a Summary of the Study.

In December 2018, Mr. Manuel Butler, Executive Director of UNWTO, and Mr. Amitava Bhattacharya, Founder Director of, India, renewed the Memorandum of Understanding between the two organizations, committing to continue collaborating in order to promote social inclusion through Intangible Cultural Heritage. The agreement aims to improve the livelihoods of indigenous communities, women, youth and people with disabilities by fostering training, capacity-building and community-based cultural tourism development.


Image: Mr. Manuel Butler, Executive Director of UNWTO, Ms. Marina Diotallevi Head of Ethics, Culture and Social Responsibility and Mr. Amitava Bhattacharya, Founder Director of, India

Relevant Materials

For more information on UNWTO's work on intangible cultural heritage please contact