Cultural Sites Adding to the Unesco World Heritage List

Subject: Culture
Pages: 13
Words: 3381
Reading time:
12 min
Study level: Bachelor


The world today is faced with many challenges that threaten the existence of humanity and the world itself. Although industrialization, urbanization, population growth, globalization, and other changes have brought positive effects to humanity, they have come with their negative effects. Today there is a strong debate on environmental change. It is obvious that environmental change holds the greatest threat to humanity than any other thing. Global warming is no longer a speculation but a reality whose effects are obvious to everyone. The debates on new threats in the world point at the human being as the origin of the threats. Human activity has led to the over-exploitation of natural resources leaving great effects on the environment and heritage. Human activity in the last century has left a great effect on heritage. Human activities have led to mountains being converted to mine, natural dams being reviewed for economic activities, people beings displaced to create room for economic activities, and other changes that affect heritage. Increased threat on heritage called for intervention by United Nations. World Heritage listing was started to recognize and conserve common heritage areas. Conservation of World Heritage is faced with various challenges. World Heritage listing has attracted tourism activities. Without strict observance of sustainability principles, tourism activities on World Heritage can have a negative effect.

World Heritage

Heritage is a common term at the national and international levels. It is common to hear of the term ‘national heritage’ being used on different platforms. Heritage is used to refer to something that is passed down from ancestors. Heritage has different dimensions depending on what it is used to refer to. Various types of heritage include natural heritage, cultural heritage, industrial heritage, food heritage, heredity, tradition, and most recent virtual heritage. Natural heritage is the most common and obvious type of heritage. It refers to natural features that are recognized as important to a country (Repiso, 2009, par 9). Cultural heritage, on the other hand, refers to the cultures that are inherited from the society that came before. Heritage is very important to society. Each country has national archives, museums, and protected heritage places. These heritage places play an important role in a community or country. They remind the people of their history and give them a sense of ownership. Many governments spend a significant portion of their budget to protect national heritage. Some countries have even passed laws to protect some heritage such as food heritage by prohibiting the importation of some things that are considered as a threat to the heritage.

World Heritage is a heritage that is considered to be of common interest to all people in the world (UNESCO Bangkok, 2009, 3). People of the world have a common origin in a way. Historians and anthropologists have shown clear evidence that human beings share a common origin. Some historical events of early civilization are considered too important to all people in the world rather than to the people who live in the areas where the events took place. Historical features such as the Egyptian Pyramids are considered to be significant to other people in the world as they are important to the Egyptians. World Heritage refers to heritage areas that are considered to be important to all people of the world. They are areas of cultural development in the past. They tell of what people have been able to achieve throughout millions of years. They refresh sweet memory over diverse achievements made in the past. In essence, they are areas of great beauty, wonder, and greet meaning. Some of World Heritage includes the Egyptian Pyramids, Taj Mahal, and Great Wall of China that represent some cultural achievements in the past. World natural heritage includes Serengeti National Park, Great Barrier and some of the world’s mountains (, 2010, par 2-4).

Motivation for World Heritage Listing

World Heritage listing is a program that is run by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) to identify and conserve heritage areas that are considered of importance to the world. Human activities in almost all parts of the world have led to the destruction of world heritage. Destruction of world heritage threatened to wipe out important historical places that represented world historical cultural achievement. Human activities were more concerned with addressing immediate problems such need for land for agriculture, mining, logging, fishing, and other activities that are considered to be of economic importance. In the process of economic solutions, cultural issues were ignored. The infringement of historical-cultural achievement was widespread across various countries in the world. The event that triggered the start of world heritage listing was the construction of the Aswan Dam in Egypt. The construction of the Aswan Dam led to a severe effect on cultural heritage in Egypt. The construction led to flooding in a valley that contained important Egyptian historical treasures. The effect of this dam called for added attention to the effect of human activity on cultural heritage. After the occurrence, UNESCO started a campaign aimed at finding funds for reclaiming the Egyptian treasure. The campaign not only raised funds for transferring the treasure to safer places in high lands but also created awareness of the need for the protection of heritage areas. The campaign was able to raise enough funds for the project, making UNESCO think of the possibility for other campaigns for the protection of other heritage areas. Other subsequent successful projects included the reclaim of Venice in Italy, Brooder Temple in Indonesia and Mohenjo-Daro ruins in Pakistani. These places were considered to be of cultural importance not only to the people of these countries where the heritage areas were situated but also to people of other countries. The campaigns for the protection of world heritage areas climaxed with the drafting and adoption of the World Heritage Convention in 1972. The convention was a reaction to the increased destruction of heritage in many parts of the world. The success of the reclamation project in Egypt, Pakistani, Italy, and India gave hope that protection of the heritage areas was possible. The convention aims to identify heritage areas and initiate programs to protect the heritage. The convention recognized that heritage areas were unique and could not be replaced. The protection aims to celebrate past cultural achievements and conserve them for future generations (, 2010, par 6-11).


World Heritage sites are considered to have great international importance. The sites are recognized for their unique cultural and natural resources. UNESCO identifies and categorizes heritage areas as World heritage. When heritage is identified, it is listed in World Heritage Listing (UNESCO Bangkok, 2009, par 7). This is a list of the places that are considered to be World Heritage. Currently, there are 85l natural and cultural sites that are listed on World Heritage List. The sites are spread all over the world. Out of the 851 World Heritage sites, 660 of them are cultural, 25 mixed while 166 as natural. The World Heritage Convention protects the sites and assures that the sites would be available for future societies. Tourism activities in world heritage sites have changed have increased the pace of world heritage listing. Many countries have realized the importance of world listing on economic activities. For example listing of Xidi and Hongcun in China led to an increase in the number of visitors. Similar observations have also been observed in other world heritage..

Being Listed as World Heritage

Conservation of cultural and natural heritage has been an interest for many countries. The passing of the World Heritage Convention was taken as a welcome by many countries. A country that wishes its sites to be considered for listing must first ratify the World Heritage Convention. A country that has ratified the convention identifies the sites in their country that they would want to be listed. The country must first make an inventory of the sites that have cultural and natural universal value (, 2010, par 5). An inventory of the significant heritage in a country is called Tentative List. The country then chooses one of the sites in the list and nominates the site for recognition as a World Heritage site. After nomination, the sites are assessed to determine whether they qualify. International Council on Monument and Sites and World Conservation Union are the bodies responsible for this role. After making the assessment the bodies make suggestions to World Heritage Committee. Certain criteria are used to determine whether a site qualifies for listing. For cultural heritage, a site must show human creativity, be unique, show an interchange of human values. In the case of natural heritage, there is the need to ensure that the site in question possesses natural beauty. In addition, there is the need to expose the historical inclinations of such a site, and its potential to aid in future conservation efforts.


International accountability and recognition

Being listed as a World Heritage site has various implications for a cultural site. The recognition gives a site an international status. The recognitions help to add prestige to a site and help to market the site at an international level. This leads to more and new visitors that come from various parts of the world. The increased attention to the site also helps to raise standards for visitors as well as for protecting and managing the site. The listing extends the responsibility for the site beyond an individual country. Being listed implies that the international community takes accountability for preserving the site. The international community led by UNESCO takes any step possible to ensure the sites are protected and conserved for the future community. In case the heritage site is threatened, World Heritage Committee can place it under World Heritage Sites in Danger that would lead to more international attention to its protection and preservation.

Protection and management

The main objective of World Heritage listing is to identify worthy universal heritage sites and help to improve their management. National governments, local authorities, and other stakeholders have to collaborate to ensure better management of these sites. By ratifying World Heritage Convention and nominating their sites for recognition, countries promise to collaborate with UNESCO in protecting the sites (Repiso, 2009, par 7). Management plans are set in order to improve management. UNESCO participates in management by helping in the identification of ways through which conservation can be enhanced. The main responsibility of UNESCO is to monitor the conservation and ensure that the world sites are not compromised. Individual governments should report to UNESCO on conservations programs after every sit year.

Planning Implication

In the United Kingdom, local authorities are expected to develop planning policies that would ensure better management and protection of the heritage sites. For example, although World Heritage Site Management Plan was adopted in the management of Stonehenge, a local plan was incorporated to ensure better management (English Heritage, 2009, par 6).

World Heritage Listing attracts partnerships and projects aimed at enabling better protection and management of the sites. A management plan enabled important stakeholders to be brought together for the conservation of the sites. The various stakeholders are able to identify a universal vision for the site and together work toward better conservation. A partnership can be established between conservation bodies and inhabitants of the place surrounding the sites. For example, the partnership can be established with farmers surrounding a natural habitat helping to create better involvement of the local is site management (Gai, Wu & Li, 2007, p. 298). World Heritage status also helps in looking for funds to conserve a heritage site. In addition to the fund set aside by UNESCO for World Heritage site management, the managing bodies can be able to acquire additional funds for the same. For example, recognition of Stonehenge as a World Heritage site helped to solicit for the fund to run programs associated with conservation programs. The status helped in the acquisition of a Defra grant for helping farmers around the site adopt biodiversity.


Tourism is a major economic activity in the world. Tourism activities have been on the increase in the recent past. Tourism products, as a consequence has increased with the development of new customer-based products (Boyd & Timothy, 2003, p, 39). There is a close link between World Heritage Sites and tourism.

World Heritage listing has led to the recognition of 851 sites around the world that are considered to have World Heritage status. These sites have great significance to the people where the sites are located. The sites have great significance to the cultural value of the native people as well as to other people in the world. World Heritage status increases tourism activities on the heritage sites. Although the main objective for World Heritage Listing was to identify and conserve valuable cultural and natural sites, the World Heritage status is used as a marketing tool for tourism by many countries. The marketing campaigns, as a consequence, lead to an increase in the number of visitors (Leask, Garrod & Fyall, 2003, p. 76). The status, marketing campaigns, informational and promotional policies of the World Heritage Committee help to raise international attention and lead to more visitors.

An increase in tourism activities has been welcomed by many countries. An increase in the activities implies high returns to the investors in the industry and the governments. Heritage is considered one of the most important constituents of tourism in developed countries. An increase in tourism activity however can have a negative effect on the heritage sites. Uncontrolled tourist activities can lead to the destruction of heritage the World Heritage Listing aims to protect.

Sustainable Management

Sustainable management in regards to world heritage sites focuses on conscious utilization of resources in all WHS and designated sites by the UN. Through enacting mechanisms aimed at controlling recreational activities in the parks and reserves marked under WHS. Since most of the sites are habitats for endangered species or rare species, the need to protect these sites and their associated life forms make it necessary to have both national policies and bi-laws that protect these locations against any unnecessary human interference.

The security measures put up in the management process of these parks include fencing, recruiting more guards, and implementing policies that control tourists activities such as picnics and camping that are more likely to cause destruction or disturbances to the wildlife in the parks and the reserves. For example, the Grand Canyon is a breeding ground for a variety of amphibians that require high protection to keep them safe from noise pollution as tourists play in the park (Shackley, 1999, p.69). As such sustainable management should focus on controlling the number of people who visit the reserve at any particular time. This can avoid overcrowding in the park which may cause a variety of frogs, snakes, and scorpions to migrate to other new locations. If this happens then the reserve might just lose the various attraction that it depends on for collecting revenue from tourists. The security of such sites as Yellow stone national park and Redwood national park is critically important in ensuring the safety of the park and the unique wildlife found in these sites.


Security is an important factor in the sustainable management of world heritage. Security has to be provided in order to protect unique resources as well as visitors. Individual governments and local governments are responsible for providing security. Security measures in major world heritage include fencing, control of human activity, and regulation of tourism activities. Fencing is important in protecting endangered species in the heritage. Control of human activities is important in ensuring that such activities do not compromise the heritage. Although tourism provides revenue, their activities in the heritage should be regulated to ensure that they do not lead to destruction.

Cultural sensitivity

WHS sustainable management strategy/policies should consider the cultural values of indigenous societies in sites identified as Heritage Sites. For example, in coastal communities around islands, it should be considered that the local community contributed to the development and preservation of sites like the Grand Canyon and Amiens cathedral in France. For purposes of sustainability, the natives should be involved in every program. Tourism activities in the sites should be considerate of the culture of the people where the sites are situated. Any activity that is considered to be against the culture of the natives should be avoided.

World heritage listing leads to an increase in visitors. As more visitors visit listed sites, they are able to interact with the natives. As more and more visitors come in, the culture of the natives may be influenced. Culture sensitivity should be emphasized in world heritage management. Visitors’ influence may erode the culture of the native, who has an important place in world heritage sites. Sustainable management should include making sure that tourism activities do not compromise the cultural values of the natives. This can include regulating the lever of interactions and informing visitors of cultural values to be respected.


Branding is a common practice in tourism. Tourist countries brand tourism products to attract more customers. Various countries have branded tourist destinations with aim of attracting more customers to the destinations. Competitions for tourism customers make marketing a necessity. Although branding is viewed as an important marketing strategy, it draws controversies. The branding of tourism destinations is questioned for its possible effect on the behavior of customers. Branding in tourism, as in another area, leads to a change in how an individual views a product. It affects how a tourism customer views a tourism destination. Branding can lead to either consideration, inept, or inert. The set referred to as consideration refers to the destinations that a tourism customer is aware of and can consider visiting. The inert set of tourism destinations refers to the destinations that a tourist customer is aware of but does not plan to visit that places in the near future (Gertner & Kotler, 2009, p. 78). Inert destinations, on the other hand, refer to the destinations that a tourism customer has never heard of not plans to visit at any time of their lives. Neither destinations that a tourist visitor has never heard nor plans to visit are categorized under unaware set.

Branding facilitates the change from one set to another. A tourism customer is expected to choose a destination among the destination that he is aware of and have the intention of visiting. Tourism destinations compete with each other for a place in the consideration set. A brand name helps the tourism customers to make decisions on the destinations to pay a visit. A brand name can develop from various sources but that which results from satisfaction from past visits has more influence on a tourist’s decision. Satisfaction from past visits can lead to marketing through word of mouth that can lead to more future visits. In consequence, branding resulting from past visits leads to lowering of marketing cost as most of the marketing is carried out through indirect means. Reports show that most tourism customers tend to have repeated visits to destinations that they had received good services.

Being categorized as World Heritage Site has a branding effect. Most governments with heritage sites in their countries are recognized as World Heritage sites in order to make them more attractive to tourism customers (Kozak & Tasci, 2006, p. 301). Branding tourism destination has various challenges. Unlike other products, the unique characteristic of service products makes branding more challenging. Despite the challenges, a good branding strategy can promote sustainable tourism and help in conservation.


World Heritage Sites are areas of attraction in the world today. World Heritage Listing was started as a way of identifying and conserving sites that are considered to have universal cultural value. Human activity has led to the over-exploitation of natural resources leaving great effects on the environment and heritage. Human activity in the last century has left a great effect on heritage. The listing, however, helps to counter the effects and conserve the sites. World Heritage status has a positive effect on tourism but increased tourism activities create a new form of threat. Tourism can be carried out sustainably to further conserve the heritage sites. The revenue obtained from tourism activities can be used in conservation programs while helping the natives enjoy the fruits of participating in conservation programs.

Reference List

Boyd, S. & Timothy, D., 2003, Heritage Tourism. Edinburgh: Pearson Education.

English Heritage., 2009. “World Heritage Sites”. Web.

Gai, L. Wu. B. & Li, M. 2007. Tourism development of World Heritage sites in China: A geographical perspective. Tourism Management, 29 (2), pp.308-319.

Gertner, D. & Kotler, P., 2009. Country as a brand, product and beyond: A place marketing and brand management. Journal of Brand Management, 9 (4-5), pp.249-62.

Kozak, M. & Tasci, A. 2006. Destination brand vs. destination images: Do we know what we mean? Journal of Vacation Marketing, 12 (4), pp. 299-31.

Leask, A. Garrod, B. & Fyall. A.,2003, Managing Visitor Attractions. London: Butterworth-Hernermann.

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UNESCO Bangkok., 2009. An Introduction to World Heritage. Web., 2010. World Heritage. Web.