About the Heritage Tourism Program

Heritage Motivates Travel

Learning about America’s heritage and exploring distinct, authentic communities continues to be a strong motivator for domestic and international travelers. Research continues to show that more people are seeking travel experiences that connect them to local culture and unique stories.

A historic buildingTwo men on horseback ride in front of a building and lawn with palm treesA historic building

Two men and and a woman stand outside a historic building



Heritage travelers want an experience they can brag about when they get home. They report wanting:

  • Destination Aesthetics
    They want to visit places where the buildings and surroundings have retained their authentic historical character
  • New Knowledge
    They want to learn more about history through an educational experience. They enjoy an intellectual challenge while on a leisure travel experience
  • See Taste Touch Smell Hear Do
    They will participate in a wide range of activities including visiting museums and historic sites, participating in culinary activities and having unique dining experiences, attending festivals and cultural performances
  • Aahh, This Is Special
    They prefer staying in lodging that reflects the heritage of the destination and are willing to pay more for that type of lodging

Visit legendary heritage places or discover new destinations at TexasTimeTravel.com.

Developing Heritage Tourism Potential

A group of people stand around a historic markerTexas is full of places that value preservation as a core community development tool and have become known destinations for heritage travelers. The successes of Texas Main Street cities and First Lady’s Texas Treasures Award communities, each unique to the people, stories and resources of place, provide a wide range of models from which others may draw.

How Does Heritage Tourism Fit with Community Planning Activities?

Cover of the Heritage Tourism Guidebook showing the interior of a log cabinBecause healthy tourism development involves a broad mix of stakeholders such as city and county government, economic development, civic, cultural and historical organizations, businesses and service providers, and do not forget the citizens, it is a community endeavor.  Sustainability depends on holistic community by-in and therefore should be integral to overall community planning, not left in the hands of one entity for either benefit or sole support. However, by working in communities across the country, the National Trust for Historic Preservation has developed a process for developing a sustainable heritage tourism program as discussed in the Heritage Tourism Guidebook.

The Heritage Tourism Guidebook (PDF) outlines the benefits of partnerships and value of heritage tourism for communities. This basic guide walks the reader through the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s five guiding principles and four planning steps essential to creating a sustainable heritage tourism program.

Heritage Tourism Principles

  1. Preserve and protect resources
  2. Focus on authenticity and quality
  3. Make sites come alive with interpretation
  4. Find the fit between community and tourism
  5. Collaborate for sustainability

The Four Steps to Heritage Tourism Development

  1. Assess the potential
  2. Plan and organize
  3. Prepare, protect and manage 
  4. Market for success

Regional Assistance

A man and woman stand on either side of a plaqueLearn about and become involved with the Texas Heritage Trails Program. The THTP facilitates local assistance and promotion through 10 heritage regions that stretch across the state. Regional organizations partner with the THC to facilitate individual site development and involvement of regional communities as well as promotion of the entire region as a heritage tourism destination.