First UN conference on tourism and culture opens in Cambodia, seeks to build partnerships

“First UN conference on tourism and culture opens in Cambodia, seeks to build partnerships”


Statues on the Angkor Wat temple in Siem Reap Cambodia. Photo: UNESCO

4 February 2015 – Aimed at bringing together Ministers of Tourism and Ministers of Culture to identify key opportunities and challenges for stronger cooperation between the fields, two United Nations agencies launched the First World Conference on Tourism and Culture today in the shadow of the legendary Angkor Wat temple, in Siem Reap, Cambodia.

The Conference, run by the UN World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) and the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) aims to address the overlap between culture and tourism, tackling the question of how to harness the power of tourism and culture to alleviate poverty, create jobs, protect natural and cultural heritage and promote international understanding.

“Today, cultural tourism – the world’s mosaic of art forms, heritage sites, festivals, traditions, and pilgrimages – is growing at an unprecedented rate,” said Taleb Rifai, UNWTO Secretary-General. “Humanity’s curiosity about cultural heritage is the element that truly differentiates one destination from another.”

Mr. Rifai described the growth of international tourism since the 1950s and the socio-economic contribution made by tourism, accounting for one out of every 11 jobs worldwide, as well as contributing nine per cent to global gross domestic product (GDP) and 30 per cent contribution to total global exports.

Irina Bokova, UNESCO Director-General, joined Mr. Rifai in looking forward to building a new, sustainable partnership that unites tourism and culture and said her goal was to create a positive mutually reinforcing dynamic between the two, working to build sustainability and to benefit local communities.

“Our starting point is to safeguard culture under all its forms, from monuments to living heritage, encompassing traditions, festivals and the performing arts,” said Ms. Bokova. We do so, because culture is who we are. It shapes our identity and is a means to foster respect and tolerance among people.”

She underlined the need to safeguard cultural heritage while moving ahead with sustainable tourism and said she believed that was the Conference’s core message, citing that vision as the route to promoting culture as a driver and enabler of sustainable development.

Cambodia’s Minister of Tourism, Thong Khon, also welcomed delegates, looking forward to the event’s contribution to sustainable conservation and development of tourism and culture.


World’s First Heritage Sites

“World’s First Heritage Sites”

by Katia Hetter via “CNN

The World Heritage List now includes 981 sites all over the world. The first version of the list in 1978 included just 12, including L'Anse aux Meadows National Historic Park in Canada. The park has an 11th-century Viking settlement, the earliest evidence of the first European presence in the New World.

(CNN) — Checking off the world’s most important natural and cultural wonders can be a herculean task.

The World Heritage List — that most lauded and recognizable of preservation lists — includes nearly 1,000 sites all over the world.

That number will almost certainly increase when the World Heritage Committee of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization meets June 15-25 in Qatar.

Instead of sorting through that encyclopedic list, why not start at the very beginning with the first 12 sites?

The Galapagos Islands in Ecuador, Yellowstone National Park in the United States and the Island of Goree in Senegal were among the 12 sites named to the first list in 1978.

Only countries that sign the convention creating the World Heritage Committee and list can nominate sites, and that was just 40 countries when the first nominations came out. Thirty-six years later, 191 nations have signed the convention.

“There is an incredible diversity of sites both natural and cultural around the world,” said Mechtild Rossler, deputy director of UNESCO’s World Heritage Centre, a 22-year veteran of the organization. “The beauty of this convention is that the text defining natural and cultural heritage is very broad.”

Being named to the list is a big deal. Government officials work for years to prepare their nominations, and preservation officials hope for those designations to support their work. And what tourist site doesn’t tout its World Heritage Site designation?

While we wait to learn the newest members of this prestigious list, here are the first 12 World Heritage sites, listed in the order in which they are listed in the minutes of the September 1978 meeting in Washington.

L’Anse aux Meadows National Historic Park, Canada

What’s left of the 11th-century Viking settlement at L’Anse aux Meadows National Historic Park on the island of Newfoundland in Canada is the earliest evidence of the first European presence in North America.

Excavations have found timber-framed, peat-turf buildings like those found in Iceland and Norse Greenland during the same period. It’s the first and only known Viking site in North America. The site was protected by the government of Canada in 1977, just a year before its inclusion on the World Heritage List.

Nahanni National Park, Canada  . . .