This month we are publishing Industrial Heritage Tourism by Philip Feifan Xie which explores the complex relationship between industrial heritage and tourism. In this post, Philip tells us why industrial heritage is so important for tourists and how he came to write the book.
As industrial heritage is regarded by the public as a steadily diminishing resource, the milieu of industrial complexes and their potential reuse for leisure, tourism and entertainment have gained prominence worldwide. From Japan’s industrial revolution sites recently being in the running to become UNESCO World Heritage Sites, to the creative economy redeveloped from the abandoned factories, industrial heritage is increasingly becoming an important economic means for gentrification and tourism development.
My book, Industrial Heritage Tourism, is a timely addition to this burgeoning field. It initially coalesced in the early 2000s when I noticed a surge of interest in visiting industrial sites worldwide. Industrial landscape, which includes remains, ruins, waterfront warehouses and factories, once rejected by the public, has opened up new space for resourceful reinterpretation and provided an intriguing backdrop for the growth of creative economy. There is a growing development of a new “tourist gaze” directed at industrial heritage sites, and the potential for parlaying that gaze into a broader “nostalgia industry” has gained attention at all levels, from grassroots to governments. In this book, I argue that contemporary society has experienced a third Industrial Revolution that brings industrial romance into everyday life. The revival of interest in the traditions of artisanship has led to attention to the aesthetic qualities of industrial sites, and to a concern in repurposing them. Most importantly, industrial heritage has become a rallying point for social justice movements centering on the preservation of vernacular industrial cultures and in defense of local workforces who have suffered the effects of deindustrialization.
In addition, my book attempts to characterize the complex nature of industrial heritage sites’ transformations into tourist attractions. The goal is to offer a theoretical framework underpinned by contemporary issues and case studies with an emphasis on linking industrial heritage tourism theory to practice. By proposing a conceptual framework and assembling the most relevant case studies on four different continents, e.g., the US, Taiwan, New Zealand, the Netherlands and Portugal, I hope to stimulate meaningful dialogue on the impacts of tourism and to raise consciousness around the importance and value of functional or non-functional industrial sites. Overall, the subject of industrial heritage provokes an ongoing and inconclusive debate that continues to shape our attitudes toward the preserved sites and structures that comprise the diverse portfolio of social, cultural, and economic valuations.