Updated: Sep 1
I find it quite contradictory at times discussing issues like this, because I myself, am a tourist- no matter the perspectives I bring or take. But being a student studying development, we must challenge ourselves each and everyday.
When visiting Angkor Wat, we were posed with the question of responsible tourism. In an article called ‘Unesco-cide: Does World Heritage Status do Cities more Harm than Good?’, Lavigne Barren raises the question as to whether the United Nations World Heritage status struggles to keep a balance between the economic benefits that come with tourism and preserving the culture that drew such recognition.
It is suggested that by raising the international profile of a particular site, such a label not only increases tourism but can also open the potential for commercialisation; which can then diminish the sites cultural heritage and authenticity. It was stated that currently, UNESCO has no clear guidelines or effective methods to control the threat of growing commercialisation for these sites and that talks of sustainability are more verbal exercises rather than being implemented and enforced. People will inevitably travel and visit these sites. But if you do, please educate yourselves first. Understand the culture, the history and the value of each site.
Be aware of these issues, support the locals and be culturally and sustainably responsible. We must apply this in everything we do when we travel, not just when visiting heritage sites.