The sanitization of colonial history: Authenticity, heritage interpretation and the case of Macau's tour guides

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52 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Macau was founded by the Portuguese in the mid-sixteenth century. The centuries of colonial rule that preceded its recent return to China gave it a distinctive character unique in China. The tangible and intangible imprint of the colonial history of Macau is central to its attractiveness as a cultural tourism destination. A literature review reveals worldwide examples of the manipulation of history for both political and tourism purposes. This research uses in-depth thematic interviews with 14 local tour guides to show how Macau's colonial heritage is presented and interpreted to tourist groups by the local tour guides, as regards both what they are shown and what they are told. It is found that the guides adjust their interpretation to the geographical origin of the tourists in a significant way; in particular, they tend to almost totally eschew any reference to its colonial history when addressing a Chinese audience, in contrast to the interpretation presented to non-Chinese visitors. The use of Hall's three-fold interpretative message framework (dominant - hegemonic/negotiated/oppositional) is discussed, as is Langer's concept of mindless and mindful tourists. Some consequences for the sustainability of heritage tourism in Macau are also explored.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)915-931
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Sustainable Tourism
Volume21
Issue number6
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2013
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • Macau
  • colonial history
  • interpretation
  • sustainable cultural tourism
  • tour guides

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