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Hallstatt: a paradox between cultural identity and cultural appropriation

The aesthetic preservation of the cultural landscape of Hallstatt (Salzburg, Austria), which was enlisted in 1997 by UNESCO, and its contradiction between responsible usage and economic interest form an interesting basis for discussing the socio-economic frame that builds around the World Heritage Sites.

Hallstatt became known as World Heritage due to its outstanding value for the historic mining development since the Middle Bronze Age and its ongoing preservation of cultural traditions which form the values of an intangible authenticity. Because of the combination between the societal need of survival, economic wealth and the artistic interest starting from the 19th century Biedermeier poets, it allowed for the environment to be protected and promoted at the same time.

a picturesque image of Hallstatt: dwellings of historic craftsmanship are preserved

According to the World Heritage List nomination dossier, the high density and quality of the monuments are attributable not only to the historical continuity of the mining industry but also to the naturally restricted amount of land appropriate for development owing to the town's location between a lake and massive mountains.

The community maintains a feeling of historical awareness, actively contributing to the preservation which has become a widespread issue advocated and supported by municipal, regional, and federal governments.

Over-tourism and the quest for a replicable authenticity

The question of the durability of authenticity when it comes to the reproduction of cultural landscapes,case example is the Chinese version of Hallstatt: Pinyin Wu Kuang Hashitate is an interesting starting point whilst measuring the worth of a true copy. The original cannot be replaced, but replicas might very well.

Satellite image of Chinese replica of Hallstatt Tourism Town

Given Hallstatt's size, the municipality provides high-quality infrastructure and services to its residents. However,it also faces a number of difficulties, most significantly the problem of the ageing of its population and its continued decrease.

On one hand, the rapidly increasing number of day tourists, also known as hit-and-run, provide opportunities for local businesses. On the other hand, it also presents challenges for the municipality, as it adds extra costs for infrastructure and service provision and has a negative impact on local residents' quality of life. With over 10.000 visitors a day the feeling of residing in a museum is understandable, yet, most inhabitants declared in a recent survey that they are against the introduction of admission fees.

Heritage tourism necessitates a search for authenticity. Inaccurate narratives about a location may have a critical impact on the tourist experience and impressions of the historical site. Cultural heritage places must give genuine experiences with messages based on reality and responsibility in the protection, management, interpretation, and marketing of experiences

established in documented history due to growing competition among tourist attractions. The authenticity trend is expanding and growing in tandem with the use of the authenticity idea in tourist marketing.

In 2011, a Chinese real estate development company planned to create a replica of Hallstatt. Though the Chinese clone has been labelled the world's first town mainly for the purpose of tourism, the phenomena of towns, neighbourhoods, and theme parks built with inspiration from other global places are not new.

Even though mayor Scheutz of Hallstatt and the locals were outraged and insulted at first, after visiting the replica he emphasized that the town might have a good influence and could be a tourism driver for the Austrian original while simultaneously serving as an effective advertisement inside the Chinese market. Cultural tourism is one of the tourist market's current trends. Austria's year-round tourism status can be exploited to its advantage when competing with other countries. This is the main reason as to why the National Tourism Office, ANTO bases its branding on the natural beauty, cultural history and is therefore often times a generalization of a nation's identity in order to attract a constant number of tourists. Traditional pictures of mountains, meadows, and Mozart may not be considered effective representations of Austria by Austrians. These photos, on the other hand, contributed to the enduring notion of Austria as a location of natural beauty in both winter and summer.

Though it is a cliché to portray Austria as a deeply traditional country it also implied that the old and new could coexist. So, no stranger to tourism, Hallstatt as well made full use of this pre-existing image in order to strategize and promote different touristic revenues.


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