UNESCO's world heritage sites : the interplay between international and local branding for the Gonbad-e Qābus brick tower, Iran

Shabani, Bardia and Tucker, Hazel and Nazifi, Amin; Seyfi, Siamak and Hall, C. Michael, eds. (2020) UNESCO's world heritage sites : the interplay between international and local branding for the Gonbad-e Qābus brick tower, Iran. In: Cultural and Heritage Tourism in the Middle East and North Africa. Contemporary Geographies of Leisure, Tourism and Mobility . Routledge Taylor & Francis Group, Abingdon. ISBN 9780367232719

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    Abstract

    While UNESCO’s World Heritage Sites (WHS) are among the catalysers that can affect destination image, this has its own challenges and opportunities. Gonbad-e Qābus brick tower, in north-east Iran, is one of the most iconic existing symbols of the ancient cultural exchange between Central Asian nomads and Iran’s ancient civilization. Registered as a UNESCO’s WHS in 2012, this outstanding masterpiece of early Islamic brick architecture may play a pivotal role in shedding light on various dimensions of new cultural exchanges, and can potentially highlight the role of Turkman minority culture in tourism presentation of the area surrounding the WHS. This chapter provides an empirical examination (20 interviews: 10 with tourism experts and 10 with local people) of this interplay in the context of the Gonbad-e Qābus brick tower. The discussion focuses on the influence of the heritage site designation brand upon the prior image, or ‘brand’, of the destination (Turkmen culture). Furthermore, the chapter considers how far both brands can be unified within the destination. Firstly, the mission of UNESCO is outlined, before discussing the role of the local community and their attitudes toward the Gonbad-e Qābus tower becoming a WHS. The chapter then turns to focus on the challenges of designating an international brand for the local community at the destination, and whether, and how, the local people might accept the newly-awarded branding of their own culture.