In April 2013, I attended an international conference: “Tourism and shifting values of Cultural Heritage“ in Taipei, Taiwan. Together with Nadine Huids, We presented our paper: “Towards the Heritage impact assessment of tourism: The Historic Route of Macao as case study”.
Macao is globally acknowledged for the outstanding universal value of its historical route, linking the ancient Chinese port to the Portuguese city, illustrating the development of the first and longest-lasting encounter between European and Asian cultures, over more than four centuries, throughout its urban heritage, comprising a series of public spaces and architectural ensembles.
From a local economy based on fishing, firecrackers- and incense-making, Macao has become, the “Vegas in Asia”. Gaming contributes to nearly eighty percent of the Macao Gross Domestic Product (GDP), more than two-thirds of Macao’s government income. Macao receives an immense flow of tourists per year. The socio-economic and urban development needed to receive, host and manage their stay, poses great challenges to the sustainable use and users of such historic urban landscape, historical route inclusive.
Particularly, population growth seems to be stimulating change to occur in urban contexts, aggravated by urban developments which lacks on heritage impact assessments to reflect upon their accumulative impact before approving them. For decades, Macao is facing changes in density and change in ratio tourists versus inhabitants.
The paper aims to present and discuss the results of a research which relates changes in the historic route of Macao with the population growth caused by tourism as change agent. Such results will enable local and national governments to diagnose and define strategies to mitigate the impact of relevant change agents, such as tourism, in the outstanding universal value of the historical route in Macao. Furthermore, it also contributes to the growth of knowledge on methods applied to heritage impact assessments and their relevance.