Accelerating Cultural Heritage Tourism in San Antonio: A Community-Based Tourism Development Proposal for the Missions Historic District

Accelerating Cultural Heritage Tourism in San Antonio: A Community-Based Tourism Development Proposal for the Missions Historic District
4 February 2015
| Citation



Cultural heritage tourism is a proven economic stimulus that creates jobs and direct economic benefits to locals. Heritage zones promote conservation of historic resources and can incubate small businesses, revitalize commercial districts, generate local jobs and foster positive change in a community. The social benefits are many, yet long-term retention of the benefits requires deliberate planning. The prosperity brought by the tourists tends to destroy the experiences they seek. Heritage tourists seek experiences of authentic cultural heritage. Yet, the economic prosperity of tourism can swiftly alter a region.  Business and real estate development pressures increase as the tourist market expands, bringing changes that occlude and displace the local heritage. This paper posits that attention to cultural sustainability can mitigate negative impacts and correlate to a robust heritage tourism economy. Sustainable development practices can support cultural heritage tourism in a manner that sustains the local culture. The San Antonio Missions and potential development in South San Antonio are reviewed here as an economic development tool designed to attract visitors to an area based on the unique aspects of the locality’s history, landscape and culture. The heritage tourism market needs cultural heritage in order to grow and retain the economic prosperity over time. This research investigates and analyzes the potential of the San Antonio Missions Historic District toward community-based cultural heritage tourismThe connections of Missions to the river will feature historic and artistic interpretations of the story of the missions and highlight their social and cultural importance to the area. This will reinforce the importance of the river to the missions and encourage visitors to circulate between the Mission Reach and the river. Accelerating tourism in Missions Historic District will be a considerable economic and social benefit through the workforce, income and infrastructure developments. This research provides a legacy of positive development within the Missions Historic District, especially as San Antonio moves toward World Heritage designation. World Heritage designation brings international attention and increased tourism with both positive and negative impacts. Cultural heritage tourism can bring many benefits to a local economy but it can also disrupt the quality of life of the local inhabitants. This research also investigates how to prevent gentrification and the loss of authenticity while tourism in the district accelerates. This paper also promotes cultural and environmental sustainability at the local or neighborhood level, and highlights the potential benefits for small business owners to connect to the growing heritage tourism economy of the San Antonio Missions Historic District. Prosperity for residents of the district is a viable path to sustaining the community’s cultural heritage, identity and authenticity.


Authenticity, community-based design, cultural heritage tourism, management, sustainability, World Heritage designation


[1] Kester, J.G.C., 2011 International Tourism Results and Prospects for 2012, UNWTO News Conference, HQ, Madrid, Spain, 16 January 2012, available at (accessed 03/03/2012).

[2] UTSA Institute for Economic Development’s Center for Community and Business Research in conjunction with The Harbinger Consulting Group, Economic Impact of the San Antonio Missions, National Historic Parks: USA, 2011, available at (accessed 03/03/2012).

[3] The Harbinger Consulting Group, Building on a Strong Foundation: Potential Economic Impact of World Heritage Site Designation for the San Antonio Missions, Bexar County, Texas, USA, 2013, available at: (accessed 03/03/2012).

[4] Doganer, S., Cultural heritage tourism research: a sustainable community-based design project for the San Antonio Mission Historic District, WIT Transactions on Ecology and the Environment, 173, pp. 219–230, 2013, ISSN 1743-3541, doi. 10.2495/SDP130181. doi:

[5] International Cultural Tourism Charter, Managing Tourism at Places of Heritage Significance, ICOMOS International Council on Monuments and Sites, Mexico, 1999, available at (accessed 03/27/2013).

[6] Doganer, S., Lombardi, A. & Tumer, E.U., Managing heritage sites while accelerating cultural heritage tourism in Antalya, Turkey, Heritage, Architecture and Land Design Focus on Conservation, Regeneration, Innovation, XI Internazionale di Studi, 13–15 June, Capri/Italy, pp. 227–235, 2013.

[7] Cros, H., A new model to assist in planning for sustainable cultural heritage tourism, International Journal of Tourism Research, 3(2), pp. 165–170, 2001. doi:

[8] Park, H.Y., Heritage Tourism, Routledge: London, 2014. doi:

[9] UNESCO World Heritage Center, Operational Guidelines for the Implementation of the World Heritage Convention, Intergovernmental Committee for the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage: Paris, France, 2013, available at (accessed 12/24/2013).

[10] Ringbeck, B., Management Plans for World Heritage Sites – A Practical Guide, German Commission for UNESCO: Bonn, 2008, available at (accessed 03/18/2013).

[11] Orbasli, A., Tourists in Historic Towns: Urban Conservation and Heritage Management, Spon Press: London, 2000. doi:

[12] City of San Antonio, Office of Historic Preservation, A Guide to San Antonio’s Historic Resources, Texas, USA, 2012, available at (accessed 12/24/2013),’sHistoricDistricts.pdf (accessed 12/24/2013).

[13] Doganer, S. & Dupont, W., Cultural heritage tourism and authenticity: San Antonio Missions Historic District, WIT Transactions on The Built Environment, 131, , pp. 15–27, 2013. ISSN 1743-3509, doi. 10.2495/STR130021.

[14] City of San Antonio, Office of Historic Preservation, Local Historic Districts, Mission, Texas, USA, available at (accessed 03/03/2012).

[15] Ringenbach, P.T., Snow, S., Morris, S., et al., San Antonio Missions, Nomination to the World Heritage List by the United States of America, San Antonio, Texas, USA, 2014.

[16] Snow, S., San Antonio Community Leaders Launch, Quest for World Heritage Status”, August 22, U.S. Department of the Interior, National Park Service, USA, 2012, available at (accessed 03/27/2012).

[17] UNESCO World Heritage Center, Tentative List: San Antonio Franciscan Missions, available at (accessed 03/03/2012).

[18] Bexar County, City of San Antonio, San Antonio River Authority, and others, San Antonio River South Area Coordinated Management Plan, Protect-Promote-Coordinate, Texas, USA, 2010, available at (accessed 03/03/2012).

[19] National Register Bulletin 15, How to Apply the National register Criteria for Evaluation, U.S. Department of the Interior, National Park Service, USA, available at (accessed 03/27/2012).

[20] Ruiz-Ballesteros, E., Social–ecological resilience and community-based tourism: an approach from Agua Blanca, Ecuador. Tourism Management, 32(3), pp. 655–666, 2011. doi:

[21] Leballo, M., The study of best practice in Community-Based Tourism Initiatives (CBTI) in South Africa, Unpublished Paper, Land and Agricultural Policy Center, Johannesburg, 2000.

[22] UTSA South-West Texas Border Small Business Development Center Network, Building the Texas Economy One Business at a Time, 2012 Annual Report, USA, available at (accessed 12/24/2013).

[23] UTSA San Antonio Small Business Development Center Network, Building the Texas Economy One Business at a Time, 2012 Annual Report, USA, available at (accessed 12/24/2013).

[24] Brooks, G., Exploiting the benefits of World Heritage Listing: Evora, Portugal and Hoi An, Vietnam, City Spaces – Tourist Places: Urban Tourism Precincts, Elsevier: UK, 2008. doi: