The attraction of cultural tourism is its uniqueness and, most often, its scarcity. It is precisely because a historical monument or a cultural tradition is unique and only found in one place that cultural tourism exist: one must go there to experience the culture. Unlike attraction parks that can be replicated anywhere to meet market demand and spread the traffic, cultural destinations cannot duplicate themselves and cannot expand without compromising or diluting some aspects of their cultural value. Where is the fair and ethical line between preserving virgin state and meeting demand?
Singapore reports lower-spending Chinese tourists  while Korea reports soaring numbers from them , overtaking Thailand, currently on a decline, as their top destination . These seemingly conflicting headlines reflects the evolution of Chinese tourists abroad: they are not the “same” tourists, they are different groups and different generations each affecting changes in different directions. Last week’s article, "Where is the Chinese tourists' money going?" explains how Chinese tourists fall into three key groups where the tourists to Singapore reflect the receding tide of “Hedonists” while the soaring numbers to Korea comprise the rising tide of the “Wenyi” and in Thailand the growth of the “Traditionalists” has been affected by both the end of zero-cost tours and their uneasiness about pictures of unrest.
It is indeed a provocative question with uncomfortable answers. By its very nature, cultural tourism is potentially the most beneficial form of tourism toward understanding cultural differences and consequently promote social harmony. So it should be encouraged and facilitated to reach the largest audience. That is the bright side of the idea. The downside of cultural tourism is the “observer effect” where the subjects are affected by the mere presence of the observers. As cultural tourism become increasingly popular so does the increasing effect on the culture being observed altering its nature and diminishing its value.
Looking past the media hype and the glittering headlines, it is fascinating to find out who, in the tourism industry, benefits the most today and who will tomorrow. No question that Chinese tourists are big shoppers of luxury goods, but do they also spend lavishly in the other sectors of the tourism industry and in other locations than their top 5 or 10 favorite destinations? That is where the anecdotal nature of the media stories fails to match with factual numbers. The numbers are up there, they are big and growing, but the media stories obscure the real picture of where most of that money goes.