Each year, millions of travelers visit America’s historic places. The National Trust for Historic Preservation defines heritage tourism as “traveling to experience the places, artifacts, and activities that authentically represent the stories and people of the past and present.” A high percentage of domestic and international travelers participate in cultural and/or heritage activities while traveling, and those that do stay longer, spend more, and travel more often. Heritage tourism creates jobs and business opportunities, helps protect resources, and often improves the quality of life for local residents.
The ACHP has encouraged national travel and tourism policies that promote the international marketing of America’s historic sites as tourism destinations. The ACHP also engages in ongoing efforts to build a more inclusive preservation program, reaching out to diverse communities and groups and engaging them in dialogue about what parts of our national legacy should be more fully recognized, preserved, and shared. A retrospective look at ACHP efforts related to heritage tourism was created as part of Preservation50, the 2016 celebration of the 50th anniversary of the National Historic Preservation Act. It provides a historical overview, as well as links to important documents and resources.
The ACHP developed Preserve America, a national initiative to encourage and support community efforts for the preservation and enjoyment of America’s cultural and natural heritage. In partnership with other federal agencies, the initiative has encouraged the use of historic assets for economic development and community revitalization, as well as enabling people to experience and appreciate local historic resources through heritage tourism and education programs. These goals have been advanced by an Executive Order directing federal agencies to support such efforts, a community designation program, and a recognition program for outstanding stewardship of historic resources by volunteers.
Since the Preserve America program was created in 2003, over 900 Preserve America Communities have been designated in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and two territories, as well as nearly 60 Preserve America Stewards. Many Preserve America Communities are featured in “Discover Our Shared Heritage” National Register on-line travel itineraries. From 2006 through 2010, the National Park Service (in partnership with the ACHP) awarded more than $21 million in Preserve America Grants to support sustainable historic resource management strategies, with a focus on heritage tourism.