As part of its tourism programme, UNESCO World Heritage Centre will host its first stand ever at the International Tourism Exchange (ITB), the world's largest travel and tourism trade fair, which will be held in Berlin, Germany from 12–16 March 2004. UNESCO has hosted workshops at ITB every year since 1999, but this is the first time that the World Heritage Centre will have a permanent presence (stand nr. 10.1/116) to provide information on its tourism programme and activities.
Presentations will be made everyday at 10am, 1pm and 3pm on issues such as World Heritage destinations, sustainable tourism at World Heritage sites, the effects of tourism on the conservation of World Heritage sites, individual conservation efforts, the trade's role in site conservation, and World Heritage tours as new markets.
World Heritage Site Managers will be on hand to present information about their World Heritage sites as well as local products, services and activities that could be linked with Tour Operators attending the ITB. They will also explain management issues to promote better coordination between the tourism industry and World Heritage site management.
Various forms of partnerships will be presented and interactive programmes will be available to show visitors how the public and the tourism industry can participate in the conservation of natural and cultural World Heritage sites. Current World Heritage partners such as the NGOs: The Nature Conservancy (TNC), the United Nations Foundation, and RARE, as well as the Grand Circle Foundation (founded in 1992 by Grand Circle Travel) and GTZ (one of the world's largest consultancy organisations for development co-operation), will be present at the UNESCO stand to meet with the general public and tourism professionals. Other tourism industry partners will highlight their collaboration with UNESCO World Heritage sites and explain the “added-value” this has brought to their corporate image.
Adopted in 1972 by the General Assembly of UNESCO, the Convention Concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage (World Heritage Convention) has become the world's leading international instrument for the protection and preservation of the most outstanding destinations on earth. The World Heritage List ranges from cultural monuments to historic cities to protected natural areas that span the whole range of tourism destinations and types of tourism, whether business, leisure, youth travel, adventure tourism, eco-tourism or cultural tourism. However, tourism has both positive and negative impacts on cultural and natural heritage. Over-crowding, over-development, pollution or threats to wildlife habitats are some of the associated risks. Nevertheless, tourism also brings much-needed funds, which can be used to help preserve natural and cultural World Heritage sites and empower local communities living and working near those sites.
“Even though tourism can be a problem , when properly managed and coordinated with the tourism industry, it can also offer many solutions to the problems facing World Heritage sites today,” said Francesco Bandarin, Director of the World Heritage Centre in Paris. “By actively participating in ITB, we hope to engage in a dialogue and partnership with the tourism industry, in order to enhance conservation of the 754 World Heritage sites worldwide.”