Strategic communication of heritage sites is a key tool for sustainable tourism management, according to Lola Teruel, a Tourism research professor at the Universitat Politècnica de València. A tool is needed to evaluate the results of strategic communication and its goal should be to analyze of the communicative efficiency of information and communications technologies (ICT) in contributing to sustainable tourism management and as a way to interpretation local heritage. This is the instrument that is being developed by the researcher Lola Teruel and is one of the results of her doctoral thesis, “Analysis of Strategic Communication of Heritage Sites and Protected Areas Through Information and Communications Technologies and Its Relationship to Sustainable Tourism Management”.
According to Teruel, the Communicative Efficiency Questionnaire identifies strategic communication as a tool for efficient and sustainable tourism management, and information and communications technology as a means to this end. “Strategic communication goes beyond the simple transmission of information and promotion of tourism. These new attributions are aimed at obtaining funding for heritage and protected sites, capacity building and as a tool to increase the appreciation of tourists and residents for the conservation of these spaces, among others,” said the researcher.
For fieldwork research, the Professor of Tourism analyzed the strategic communication of 120 UNESCO World Heritage sites, including Yellowstone National Park in the United States, and the Petra Archaeological Park in Jordan.
In summary, the researcher concluded that information and communications technologies help increase communicative efficiency in the sustainable management of a heritage sites, provided they are put at the service of strategic communication. “Using technology for communication purposes allows us to get to know and fall in love with the destination before even visiting it. It helps us better understand the interpretive messages, for example, through interactive applications, or through social media posting. It also allows us to recommend the destination and its values after leaving it. And it allows the destination, for example, to use its online platforms to obtain funding,” explained the researcher.
IMPROPERLY MANAGED TECHNOLOGY IS USELESS
Lola Teruel also said that websites, social networks, interactive technologies, mobile applications or video games are tools that are being used in the management of heritage sites with very good results in some cases. However, she also stated that it was not uncommon for the digital media manager of these sites to be more concerned with using advanced technologies than with creating effective strategic communication plans. To contribute to the sustainability of heritage site, the messages must be carefully crafted in the communication plan in order to increase the awareness of users. “They must be messages that interpret the heritage, that don’t lie, that are not what’s ‘exotic’, but highlight what’s original and unique about the destination, so that predisposes visitors to want to visit it and protect it, because they are aware of its fragility,” explains Dr. Lola Teruel.
The researcher also pointed out that the ease of availability of these technologies can turn into a threat if they are not accompanied by proper maintenance and updating. “Even from a promotional standpoint, it is a negative sign to see outdated information. It looks sloppy and sheds a negative light on the destination as a whole,” she said.
LACK OF TRAINING
For Lola Teruel, the most notable deficiency detected is a deficit in the professionalization in content development and maintenance of the websites analyzed. In this regard, “the need is observed for training of communication and heritage interpretation professionals to interact with users in an efficient and productive way. The aim of the training should be a communication program that enables the production of appropriate interpretive content to ensure sustainable management of the heritage destination. This way,” she added, “they will be able to exploit the full potential of the information and communications technologies.”