International Conference on Sustainable Tourism Management at Heritage Sites

27 Mar 08

Huangshan, China, 24-27 March 2008

Joining forces to promote sustainable tourism at World Heritage Sites

UNESCO World Heritage Sites must be treated as an integral part of the tourism product as they face up to future challenges. The ever-growing number of international and domestic tourists who are attracted to these emblematic destinations can also be a threat to their conservation.
This was one of the key messages emerged from the conference Sustainable Tourism Management at World Heritage Sites, jointly organized by UNWTO and the UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) World Heritage Centre. The conference was hosted by the China National Tourism Administration and the Municipality of Huangshan (Huangshan, 24-27 March).

The need for effective public-private partnerships to ensure the sustainable management of such diverse sites, which represent complex systems of cultural and natural heritage values, was underscored UNWTO Deputy Secretary General, Taleb Rifai.

“We have seen various successful partnership models at Huangshan, supporting the livelihood of local communities in the broader region and also generating much needed income for the maintenance and conservation of heritage”, he said.

The conference addressed key sustainability issues such as providing economic benefits for local communities and site conservation, communicating and interpreting of heritage values to visitors, managing tourism congestion, and conserving the environment of sites.

Mainstreaming World Heritage Sites

Heritage sites need to be integrated in the management of destinations and regions, taking into consideration the complete tourism supply chain, said Gabor Vereczi, Chief of Quality and Environment at UNWTO’s Sustainable Development of Tourism Department.

“Heritage sites cannot be managed in isolation. Tourism functions through a long supply chain and there is a range of transportation, accommodation, information and tour operation services that are delivered before a tourist actually arrives at the gate of a heritage site; tourism can be influenced at any of these points”, he said.

One UN

Art Pederson, tourism specialist at the UNESCO World Heritage Centre, highlighted the relevance of the meeting for enhancing United Nations coordination on key tourism-related conservation and economic development issues.

“Cooperation must take place to combine forces, so as to build capacity to deal with the growing visitor management pressures in China and in other countries. The ongoing collaboration of the UNESCO World Heritage Tourism Programme with UNWTO facilitates this and will help us meet current and future tourism challenges and utilize the industry’s benefits for site conservation and local communities“, he said

UNWTO and UNESCO will provide effective follow up to the conference by designating Huangshan as the second Sustainable Tourism Observatory. 35 of UNESCO’s 851 World Heritage Sites are in China. The first was established in 2007 for Guilin and the Li River valley, also in China, as part of UNWTO’s training programme on the application of sustainable tourism indicators.

Huangshan will serve as a pilot region for testing working principles and to apply management and monitoring techniques through capacity building and technical assistance. The long-term objective is to develop a series of pilot demonstration projects, to generate experience that can be replicated at World Heritage Sites around the world.

The Huangshan Conference brought together some 170 professionals from UNWTO, UNESCO, the International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS) and other international organizations, representatives from tourism and heritage authorities, tourism companies, conservation organizations and education institutions from 14 countries in the Asia-Pacific region.

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