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Heritage Tourism

According to the World Trade Organization, there is currently a shift away from active holidays and towards experiential vacations.  Modern travelers prefer tourist attractions that provide educational opportunities.  Fortunately, the Canadian Register of Historic Places is filled with historic places that offer a combination of learning and leisure.  Destination options not only include museums and interpretive centres, but also heritage buildings and cultural landscapes.  Often referred to as Heritage Tourism Enthusiasts, many tourists seek out heritage sites during their travels.  Since Canada has a vast collection of historic places, tourists have limitless choices!

Tourism stimulates the Canadian economy.  In 2010, overnight travel spending brought in $3 billion - a noteworthy figure!  Statistically, Heritage tourist enthusiasts tend to spend more money per day and stay longer, especially since the average income of heritage tourism enthusiasts is notably higher than other habitual tourists. Although Americans make up the majority of self-identified heritage enthusiasts that travel to Canada, a significant amount of international tourists interested in our historic places also visit from Europe and Asia.  2.6 million Canadians identify themselves as heritage enthusiasts and are attracted Canada's unique historic places.  In fact, 55% of this group ensure that they include Canada's historic places in their travel plans.  Some historic places have, of course, figured this out!Port Hope Capitol Theatre, Susan Schappert

For example, Port Hope - a mid-sized city in Ontario - has experienced first-hand the benefits of heritage tourism.  After an extensive restoration project in the 1970s, the downtown area now features specialty shops and antique stores.  Now a magnet for visitors, tourism is one of the fastest-growing industries in the area.  Heritage buildings such as the Port Hope Capitol Theatre are attracting new clients from across their region.  Designed to make patrons feel as though they are inside a medieval castle, the atmospheric theatre includes has frescoed ceilings and walls depicting natural scenes, and a brenograph projector which projects images of stars and clouds to create the atmosphere of a summer's evening.  Restorations like that of the Port Hope Capitol Theatre draw external guests to the local area and support the entire municipality.  Now, Port Hope and its historic places is a day trip away for over 2.5 million Torontonians.

Cape Spear Lighthouse, Parks Canada /Phare du Cap Spear, Parcs CanadaThe most easterly point in Canada, Cape Spear, attracts tourists from Canada and abroad every season.  Cape Spear is marked by Cape Spear Lighthouse NHS: this lighthouse stands on a high bluff, was constructed in 1835, and is an icon of Newfoundland pride.  Tourists are drawn by its age and location, for there is a stunning view of the surging Atlantic Ocean and St. John's harbour.  Here, heritage enthusiasts can understand Canada's rich maritime history.

Canada's first national park, Banff, is world renowned as a popular tourist destination.  Originally built when the national park was part of the Rocky Mountains Park, its Museum of Natural History NHS is the oldestMuseum of Natural History, Parks Canada / Musée d'histoire naturelle, Parcs Canada surviving building constructed by the federal government in the area.  Built in 1895, and moved in 1903, this local landmark is representative of an early approach of the interpretation of natural history in Canada. The building's design is typical of the rustic architecture seen throughout Banff.  Also known as "the Switzerland of the Americas", the town of Banff is one of the most visited towns in Canada.   Why? It's richness of historic places in the majestic mountains draw people from around the world.Québec Garrison Club, Parks Canada / Cercle-de-la-Garnison-de-Québec, Parcs Canada

For American tourists, approximately one third incorporate Québec's historic places in their itineraries.  Québec's strong heritage conservation strategies combined with the old world architecture of Québec City and Old Montréal, have kept American tourists coming for a century.  One of the most visited sites in Old Québec City is the Québec Garrison Club NHS.  The mansion demonstrates a modified château style with beautiful gardens.  As one of Québec City's oldest private clubs, this dignified historic place appeals to all tourists, captivated by its architecture.

It is economically beneficial for Canada when travellers visit historic places.   It allows Canadians to showcase their rich history to the world while benefitting from tourist dreams.  The current trend towards more experiential holidays is an opportunity for Canadians to encourage local and international travellers to visit to historic places in their neighbourhood or across the country.  With a vast range of place on the Canadian Register of Historic Places, Canada can be proud.  Perhaps your next family vacation will involve one of Canada's many historic places.

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"Tourism: Heritage Conservation Brief" Canada's Historic Places, 07/02/2011.

Canadian Tourism Commission "Travel Characteristics: Q2 2010"