UNESCO Director-General, Irina Bokova underlined the importance of better integrating cultural heritage preservation and sustainable tourism during the Roundtable on World Heritage and Sustainable Tourism, held in Miami on 19 March. She highlighted that cultural heritage is a powerful driver of social and economic development for local communities.
Also participating in this Roundtable were William Talbert, President and CEO Greater Miami Convention and Visitors Bureau; Mario Goderich, Assistant Director of the Miami Dade County's Sustainability, Planning and Economic Enhancement Department; Nathaniel Reed, Former Assistant Secretary Department of the Interior; and Dan Kimball, Superintendent Everglades National Park.
The Director-General recalled that the concept of World Heritage was born in the United States of America and paid special tribute to the work of Russell Train, one of the authors of the text of the World Heritage Convention text and former Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency as well as Founder Chairman Emeritus of the World Wildlife Fund.
The Director-General congratulated the Department of Interior and National Parks Service for their "courageous and responsible decision" to request formally the listing of Everglades National Park on the UNESCO World Heritage List in Danger in order to mobilize local awareness, responsibility and support for the long-term preservation of the site.
The Director-General also highlighted the importance of a comprehensive approach to heritage preservation in its various forms, be it natural, cultural or intangible, in order to educate younger generations to the need to preserve it, not just as a historical legacy but as a living and fundamental component of our lives and of the lives of many communities around the world.
In this context, the Director-General invited the United States authorities to consider further advancing the ratification of the UNESCO 2003 Intangible Cultural Heritage Convention.
On this occasion, the Honorable Nathaniel Reed made a strong plea "to continue investment by appropriating funds for the national parks as great economic engines and vital for their sustainability".
Under the recently developed UNESCO World Heritage Sustainable Tourism Programme, the Director-General underscored that UNESCO seeks to create an international framework for the cooperative and coordinated achievement of shared and sustainable outcomes related to tourism at World Heritage properties.
The Programme seeks to link up national and local authorities, site practitioners, tourism sector, and local communities to integrate a sustainable tourism perspective into the mechanisms of the World Heritage Convention. Then idea is to promote broad engagement in the planning, development and management of sustainable tourism that follows a destination approach and focuses on empowering local communities. The Programme also seeks to provide World Heritage stakeholders with the capacity and the tools to manage tourism efficiently, responsibly and sustainably based on the local context and needs.
William Talbert highlighted that international tourism in the United States represents 70 % of all United States tourism and that Miami airport has witnessed a 9 % increase in foreign visitors in 2011.
Dan Kimball underlined "the need for a systematic marketing strategy for World Heritage sites in the U.S.". He spoke of the challenges faced by 21 sites throughout the country that do not yet benefit from a global and comprehensive approach.
The Director-General emphasized that the international community needs to encourage responsible behavior among all stakeholders and to foster understanding and appreciation of the concept of ‘Outstanding Universal Value’ and the protection of World Heritage.
Among attendees of the Roundtable, there was Stephen Morris, Chief of International Affairs at National Parks Service, along with many representatives from the tourism sector.