16.30 The Understanding of Leisure in World Heritage Site: A Case Study in West Lake Cultural Landscape in Hongzhou, China (cancelled)
As Ashworth (2009) has argued, the mainstream heritage tourism literature characterizes tourists as a problem. Tourists are routinely defined as causing economic commodification, pollution, and physical damage to sites, and they obscure or erode other values of heritage. Most importantly, tourists have been defined as “culturally inauthentic” and as passive sightseers. They come to heritage for leisure, recreation, or entertainment, with little or no agency in the meanings they construct at heritage sites. This paper will explore the interrelationship between leisure and heritage with respect to the Chinese Cultural World Heritage Site, West Lake Cultural Landscape of Hangzhou, and is based on three and half months of fieldwork. Firstly, I will discuss the reasons tourists visit West Lake, and the experiences they have during their visiting. The paper will examine whether the meanings of leisure are shallow, banal, and simply focused on amusement, or yet are profound with deep emotional engagement.
Secondly, I will discuss the meanings of leisure to locals. I will examine not only locals leisure activities at West Lake and how these contribute to their well-being, but their reactions to leisure activities from mass tourists. I will argue that there are complex interactions between locals and tourists. The majority of locals welcome tourists to their sites. The world heritage listing and the presence of mass tourists have elicited locals’ sense of pride; they want tourists to “feel” their sites, and they hope that tourists can invoke a sense of belonging or feeling for the site and communicate with locals. In return, tourists enjoy communicating with locals. There is a strong sense of contentment that emerges when tourists feel that they have made a connection with them.