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Benchmarking the social and economic impacts of the tangible and intangible heritage of Middle Egypt

A research project of the Department of Archaeology.


UNESCO’s Sustainable Development Goals alignment states “Culture contributes to poverty reduction and paves the way for a human-centred, inclusive and equitable development”, however, major challenges lie in how to measure positive or negative impacts. Although there are numerous studies (Beyrouthi & Tessler 2013; Cultural Heritage Counts for Europe 2015), few have focused on the relationship between heritage and traditional handicraft production despite their potential importance. With a focus on visitor-generated economic benefits (Vicente 2010: 20-21; Bowitz & Ibenholt 2009), contributions are often measured through quantitative methods. These include additional production of goods/services as well as businesses and employment opportunities.

Evaluations measure direct, indirect and induced impacts but many managers do not have sufficient data on local activities, employment, income or visitor practices. Research on social impacts is fragmented and based on qualitative data (Dumcke & Gnedovsky 2013), including positive social impacts, such as social cohesion, community empowerment, capacity-building, civil pride, tolerance and learning/skills development. Benefits might record infrastructure improved employment and recreational opportunities whilst negative consequences include overcrowding, crime, resident displacement, inflation, noise, litter and traffic (Timothy & Nyaupane 2009).

Whilst traditional handicraft production can clearly benefit rural communities and make significant contributions to marginalised household economies, they are yet to make impacts within Middle Egypt. For example, 300,000 are engaged in handicraft production in Tunisia, employing 11% of the active population but recent survey by Dr Omran of Fayoum University has demonstrated handicraft production in Middle Egypt faces challenges ranging from difficulties in material procurement to a lack of central coordination, training, support and promotion. As widely acknowledged, handicrafts can offer a major contribution to poverty alleviation as they are frequently home-based, need little additional infrastructure, can operate in marginal areas and can be aligned alongside traditional agricultural and pastoral lifeways and offer participation to youth and women. 


The project is funded by the following grant:

Benchmarking The Social And Economic Impacts Of The Tangible And Intangible Heritage Of Middle Egypt, Particularly With Reference To Traditional Handicraft Production. (£109140.53 from British Council Yemen)


To create an academic cluster in the UK and Egypt to address common challenges in benchmarking the social and economic impacts of tangible and intangible heritage, particularly referencing traditional handicraft production.

To evaluate and enhance current tools for benchmarking social and economic impacts of tangible and intangible heritage in Middle Egypt, particularly referencing traditional handicraft production.
To benchmark current social and economic impacts of traditional pottery, basket, bead and textile production within Middle Egypt.

To target the reduction of negative impacts and promotion of positive social and economic impacts of tangible and intangible heritage within Middle Egypt, particularly referencing traditional handicraft production.

To promote comparative monitoring and enhancement of social and economic impacts by sharing benchmarking tools and training stakeholders, particularly with regard to traditional handicraft production in Middle Egypt.


The methodology will utilise complementary sets of data, combining multiples sources, including field visits, interviews and questionnaire with artisans, suppliers of raw materials, distributors, vendors, site managers, tourism businesses, local communities, visitors and other local stakeholders to provide a more complete evaluation of the social and economic impacts. Different methods will be used, including business, visitor and resident surveys and scoping workshops. Semi-structured interviews will also be conducted with administrators, managers, NGO representatives and those engaged in handicraft manufacture and other local actors.

Staff from the Department of Archaeology