A very special cultural exchange has been taking place over the past few weeks as three guides from a Chinese world heritage site have undertaken a secondment to the Port Arthur Historic Site Management Authority (PAHSMA).
The guides, or ‘narrators’ – all of whom speak English – are from the Dunhuang Academy, home of the Mogao Grottoes, located on the ancient Silk Route in central China.
The Mogao site, which was added to the World Heritage Register in 1987, consists of more than 700 caves, many containing elaborate painted sculptures and wall paintings depicting aspects of Buddhist history and legend. The oldest are believed to date back to the fourth century AD.
The guides have been working alongside the tourism team at Port Arthur in various areas, examining the detail of the Historic Site’s operations, including guiding, interpretive techniques, ticketing, gift shop and tourism management practices.
The primary purpose of their visit is to develop English skills and observe local management and operational practices, but there will also be benefits to the Port Arthur staff in terms of cultural awareness.
China is becoming a significant international tourism market for Australia. The number of visitors from China to the Port Arthur Historic Site has almost doubled every year for the past three years. While the numbers are small at present, the prospect for growth appears strong.
The Port Arthur Historic Site Management Authority has long been acknowledged as a leader in heritage conservation and interpretation practices. It is now being recognised internationally for its ability to manage large-scale cultural tourism while preserving the heritage values of the site.
Whilst in Tasmania, the guides have been introduced to various aspects of the State’s cultural life. As well as visiting major institutions and attractions in Hobart, they have enjoyed tours and cruises with Navigators and Tasman Island Cruises.
Historic Site staff member Vicki Skeggs and her husband Greg invited the guides to their family farm, The Run, last weekend, for a demonstration of sheep shearing and sheep dog trialling, as well as to see the spectacular coastal views from the property.
The Chinese Guides will be at the Site until February 28.