Today, cultural tourism seems to be omnipresent, and in the eyes of many it also seems to have become omnipotent.

(Richards, 2007: 1)


The aim of this chapter is to provide a framework for the rest of the book in terms of definitions, contexts and perspectives. Although cultural tourism has become a significant growth sector in recent years and has been the subject of increasingly numerous journal and book publications (e.g. Smith, 2003, 2009; Raj et al., 2013; Smith and Richards, 2013; McKercher and Du Cros, 2002; Du Cros and McKercher, 2015), there is still a need for a comprehensive book which brings together all of the main theoretical and practical issues in this diverse field. Cultural tourism is a global phenomenon which manifests itself somewhat differently in the various regions of the world. The aim of this chapter is to show that there are historical, geographical, political and social reasons for the diverse nature of cultural tourism, starting from the idea that culture can mean different things to different peoples. In addition, historical processes have created different legacies, social processes create different value systems and not all political systems support culture in the same way.