Cultural Heritage Conservation and the Rise of the Private Sector: Hopes and Concerns Mahmoud Abdou1

Document Type : Academic peer-reviewed articles


The world has experienced a growing increase in the role of the private sector in numerous fields. This research investigates the role of the private sector in heritage conservation. Different governments worldwide have sought to involve different key players when debating issues about heritage. Therefore, this research investigates the rationale, benefits, and disadvantages of private sector participation in heritage management through public-private partnerships (PPPs). To answer the research question, a single case study was selected, with data collected from an extensive literature review and interviews. Research participants were from public and private bodies to offer a nuanced understanding of the pros and cons of PPPs and heritage conservation. The financial incapability of numerous governments represents an underlying motivation for the increasing role of the private sector in heritage management. The findings also highlight that PPPs can be a useful tool to protect cultural heritage and make them accessible and workable places. Nonetheless, they also generate a number of disadvantages closely linked to interest conflicts and the decision-making process.


In a world dominated by commercialisation and globalisation, it has become quite common to witness an intersection between the activities of the private sector and numerable significant heritage sites worldwide. While some of these sites are active recipients of philanthropic assistance that is strongly needed for conservation activities, others remain passive players, constrained in the private sector´s dealings. The multi-faceted socio-economic value of heritage properties indicates that they – in different cases – are identified as commercial assets, and therefore their potential ultimate use for commercial purposes would be largely mismatched with principles of heritage conservation. 2 Managing processes of built heritage conservation highlights the participation of various key players such as public, private, and voluntary sectors, and at different levels including local, national, and regional3.  A number of global threats have a key role concerning how the private sector intertwines with heritage management, including the recession of the role of public bodies for most of their traditional responsibilities of heritage conservation, the increasing relevance of managing and conserving heritage sites, and the increasing pressure of global market forces. These threats have formalised underlying tenets for privatising heritage conservation and exert more pressure on national and international private entities to provide support through partnering with public bodies. Moreover, the ongoing increase in poverty and population size adds another dimension for the community to utilise the economic values of