What is heritage tourism?

Heritage tourism can be defined as activities, attractions and experiences that engage with, use or interpret heritage stories and places, including gardens, landscapes, sites, shipwrecks and objects.

Interacting with heritage can be either the primary tourism experience or an aspect of another tourism experience.

South Australian visitor experiences

Heritage underpins many South Australian visitor experiences, either as a compelling drawcard or intertwined with another reason for visiting.

Whether a visitor is exploring ruins from our mining heyday, staying in a luxurious former bank, visiting a museum, connecting with the ancient past in the outback, shopping in Hahndorf, paddling river and sea ports, or tasting wines produced from 150-year-old vines, SA’s historical legacy delivers memorable experiences by providing deep connections to local places and people.

While many visitors may not currently come to our state specifically for heritage reasons, we can take advantage of the benefits heritage provides by leveraging and repurposing our heritage assets for tourism. Research into heritage tourism consistently shows that visitors who engage with heritage spend more and stay longer than the average visitor.

Developing a heritage tourism strategy and action plan will build on previous work including:

  • The discussion paper released by Heritage South Australia in 2015 'Exploring Heritage Tourism Opportunities for South Australia'. This paper found that strategic investment into heritage places with tourism potential would provide considerable benefit, including improved visitor experience, increased time and money spent by international and domestic visitors, as well as helping protect and celebrate the things that are important to the community.
  • The establishment of the Heritage Tourism Alliance (2016 to 2017), a key stakeholder group with an interest in furthering heritage tourism in SA. The Alliance has been reformed as part of this project.
  • A Heritage Tourism Alliance led workshop in 2016 that explored heritage tourism in practice and its benefits, and identified new opportunities for ventures and collaboration.
  • A 2015 economic study by the City of Adelaide which determined $375m of visitor expenditure each year can be attributed to the city’s heritage.
  • A national focused Australian Heritage Tourism directions paper released by the National Trust in 2018.

Further information on these and other relevant studies is available for you to view.

South Australia’s heritage places

While heritage tourism is not limited to recognised Heritage Places, there are over 2,300 State Heritage Places in SA and 17 State Heritage Areas.

Nine sites in SA are National Heritage places, including the Naracoorte Caves which is also a World Heritage site. In addition, there are in excess of 7,000 Local Heritage places across the state.

A Heritage Tourism Strategy and Action Plan will help to unlock the potential of heritage places, providing opportunities to establish new businesses that address supply gaps/shortages, and increase the range and quality of unique and engaging experiences available to visitors.

The Heritage Tourism Alliance

A Heritage Tourism Alliance, comprising representatives of key stakeholders from across the tourism industry and heritage sector, has been formed to work with the government to develop the strategy and action plan.

The following organisations are represented on the Alliance:

  • Department for Environment and Water
  • South Australian Tourism Commission
  • Aboriginal Affairs and Reconciliation
  • South Australia Heritage Council
  • State Aboriginal Heritage Committee
  • Tourism Industry Council South Australia
  • History Trust of South Australia
  • National Trust of South Australia
  • Adelaide City Council
  • Local Government Association
  • International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS)
  • Geological Society of Australia
  • Heritage tourism researchers/academics