• Authenticity, Commodification and Sustainable Development: Construction of Destination Image for Chester, UK

      Pardoe, James; Stone, Chris; University of Chester; Manchester Metropolitan University (Green Lines Institute, 2014-07-22)
      This exploratory paper examines the ways in which perceived authentic historical narratives are utilised in the construction of heritage destinations in an era of sustainable development - the ostensible ‘organising principle’ of the twenty-first century. The most immediately tangible value of the distinctive and high-quality environments typically encountered in cultural [urban/city] destinations like Siena and Kitzbühel lies in their ability to attract visitor audiences, and the attraction of many such well-known high-quality and value destinations typically centres on a carefully conserved historic central core. Such an approach might conceivably be criticised as backward-looking and perhaps even elitist, but that the outcomes are positive seems unequivocal from certain value standpoints, and many such historic centres might be identified as embodying many precepts of sustainable development, most notably the economic. But the issue here is: exactly what is being sustained? From a conservation perspective, the fashioning of associations with the past relies on evidence of original context. The concept of what is original is therefore a central consideration when analysing how these cities are experienced, lending an ‘authenticity’ to what is being shown and allowing a credible link to the past to be maintained. However, conservation practice in many cultural city destinations frequently relies on reproductions of a perceived past, one related less to original historical or social contexts and more to the manipulation of the experience of visitors/stakeholders. Are these historic cities reconstructed artifice whose sole purpose is to inculcate a sense of place; and to what extent might concerns to present an authentic Chester with unimpeached historical validity conflict with key elements of notions of sustainable development? The research conceptualisation has been situated in a relatively novel nexus bridging theoretical considerations and practical strategies of conservation and central tenets of sustainability. The conceptual frame of reference is further extended through reference to concepts of destination image in order to explore the more tangible outcomes of governance for sustainability in terms of long-term tourism performance.