AFRICA: About half of UNESCO World Heritage sites lack tourism management planning


According to a recent study, 46 percent of the natural UNESCO sites have no active tourism management plan.

UNESCO World Heritage Sites such as Australia’s Great Barrier Reef or Yellowstone National Park in the United States for instance are some of the most visited destinations and collectively receive tens of millions of visitors each year.

Unfortunately, the new research found about 105 sites of the 229 natural UNESCO sites lack tourism management plans.

Outlining sustainable tourism development goals such as monitoring the number of visitor arrivals and identifying specific areas zoned for tourists, tourism management plans are possibly the foundation of the UNESCO organization. But only 11 of these natural UNESCO sites have a dedicated tourism management plan that isn’t integrated with a larger management plan for the site.

However, what happens for these UNESCO sites is that a larger management plan overshadows any dedicated tourism planning. China, for example, has 12 natural UNESCO sites but only nine have extensive tourism management plans. The study says, “in terms of years since listing, newer or more recently inscribed World Heritage sites were more likely to have extensive planning or at least moderate tourism planning, compared with sites that had been listed a very long time ago”.

The researchers used UNESCO’s list of 229 natural World Heritage Sites to search the Internet for their tourism management plans — if they even exist. The analysis does not account for UNESCO sites without an online presence or those that researchers weren’t able to find through Google searches. Cultural sites, such as Vatican City or the Pyramids of Giza, weren’t part of the analysis and the number of UNESCO sites with tourism management plans would likely be higher if those sites were included in the study.

Over tourism on many of these natural UNESCO sites potentially puts these attractions and also the lives of the residents and wildlife in the vicinity under harmful impact.

The study states, “Despite the early focus on recreation and enjoyment of nature by people, the UNESCO World Heritage Convention of 1972 makes only a single mention of tourism, namely in Article 11.4″.

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