Cultural Sustainability and Heritage Tourism Development: Problems in Developing Bun Festival Tourism in Hong Kong

Matthew M Chew


This study contributes to the debate on tourism and local development through evaluating an ambivalent case of traditional festival revival and development in Hong Kong: the Bun Festival of Cheung Chau Island. The significance of this case is that it will put into relief the significance of ‘cultural sustainability’— an evaluative factor that is very insufficiently emphasized in current critical studies of tourism development. I will illustrate that the most often mobilized critiques against heritage tourism development— including cultural inauthenticity, commercialization, lack of local economic development, and local disempowerment— can be applied to the case of the Bun Festival revival. However, particular social circumstances are weakening the force of those critiques in the Hong Kong case. Many local residents of the Cheung Chau Island approve the neoliberal direction of tourist development and derive substantive benefits from it. Even critical commentators in Hong Kong are not entirely against it. This study will point to evidence and arguments that reveal a serious and neglected problem in Bun Festival tourism: that neoliberal exploitation of heritage tourism resources is threatening the cultural sustainability of historically inherited local practices in the long run.

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Journal of Sustainable Development   ISSN 1913-9063 (Print)   ISSN 1913-9071 (Online) Email:

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