Heritage Tourism and the Federal Government: Federal Heritage Tourism Summit I

November 14, 2002

Executive Summary

In conjunction with its regular quarterly meeting, the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation (ACHP) hosted a summit meeting of Federal agencies November 14, 2002, to discuss cultural heritage tourism. Many Federal agencies are already supporting heritage tourism in various ways through their missions and programs. This meeting provided an opportunity for comparing notes on these activities, and to begin discussing ways to improve the coordination and consistency of such efforts.

In addition to members, observers, and staff of the ACHP, the meeting included representatives from eight cabinet departments and fourteen bureaus and independent agencies. Federal attendees included the Departments of Agriculture (Natural Resources Conservation Service, Forest Service), Commerce (Economic Development Administration, International Trade Administration), Defense (Army, Corps of Engineers, Navy), Education, Energy, Housing and Urban Development, Interior (Bureau of Land Management, Fish and Wildlife Service, National Park Service), and Transportation (Federal Highway Administration), as well as the General Services Administration, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Smithsonian Institution.

The agenda included remarks from John Nau, ACHP Chairman; Douglas Baker, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Commerce; Carolyn Brackett, ACHP Member (and National Trust for Historic Preservation Senior Associate, Heritage Tourism Program); Dan Smith, Special Assistant to the Director of the National Park Service; Dennis Adams, National Scenic Byways Program, Federal Highway Administration; and Douglas Stephens, Enterprise Team, USDA Forest Service. Following the presentations there was an opportunity for open moderated discussion. Agencies were asked to share their views on three issue areas:

  • Should there be changes in existing Federal policy or programs to provide greater support for heritage tourism as an economic development strategy as well as for other purposes?
  • What are Federal agencies currently doing to promote heritage tourism, and what additional steps can they take to ensure that the historic and cultural resources they manage are more fully integrated into local, Statewide, and regional heritage tourism initiatives throughout the country?
  • What specific cooperative efforts might be undertaken by Federal agencies to better coordinate heritage tourism activities and share information and ideas among themselves and with non-Federal parties?

Key Points from Federal Heritage Tourism Summit

  • A case for the public value of heritage tourism to the Nation should be made and shared among policymakers and decisionmakers.
  • Connections to both economic development potential and educational value and opportunity need to be maintained and stressed in program and policy development on heritage tourism.
  • There is an important linkage between appropriate management of Federal heritage assets, and regional and local economic development potential, and this message needs to be conveyed to decisionmakers.
  • Many Federal agencies are engaged in some aspect of heritage tourism development and support, but often these efforts are not well coordinated with those of other Federal entities or with other governmental or private activities.
  • Open dialogue, information and experience sharing, and pooling of success stories and best practices among Federal agencies should be encouraged and continued.
  • There is clearly a need for a central clearing house for inter-agency sharing of information on available technical assistance as well as resource management as it relates to heritage tourism.The current compartmentalization of program efforts leads to everyone reinventing the wheel.
  • Successful business planning models and practices need to be developed and shared.
  • The value and importance of sustainable public-private partnerships as a key ingredient to successful heritage tourism initiatives should be emphasized; partnership failures as well as successes should be shared and the principles for successful partnerships clarified and articulated.
  • Agencies should be encouraged to identify policy and practical obstacles to successful heritage tourism partnerships.
  • Opportunities like the Lewis and Clark bicentennial initiative need to be exploited to learn what works and what does not when it comes to heritage tourism program development and sustainability in larger scale multi-agency, multi-State, and/or multi-community ventures.
  • Strategies for Federal agencies to support and interact with state and tribal programs should be examined, and states and tribes lacking strong heritage tourism programs assisted in developing them.
  • Training, facilitated workshops, and other awareness/outreach tools for sharing information on the benefits and methodology of successful heritage tourism need to be supported.
  • The ACHP is well situated to assist in interagency and intergovernmental coordination efforts in support of heritage tourism policies and programs as a convener, facilitator, and clearinghouse promoter.