World Heritage and Sustainable Tourism Programme

For the past 40 years the UNESCO World Heritage Convention has conserved, protected and presented the Outstanding Universal Value of our shared heritage.World Heritage properties are important travel destinations, that if managed properly, have great potential impact for local economic development and long-term sustainability.The UNESCO World Heritage and Sustainable Tourism Programme represents a new approach based on dialogue and stakeholder cooperation where planning for tourism and heritage management is integrated at a destination level, the natural and cultural assets are valued and protected, and appropriate tourism developed.


World Heritage and tourism stakeholders share responsibility for conservation of our common cultural and natural heritage of Outstanding Universal Value and for sustainable development through appropriate tourism management.


Facilitate the management and development of sustainable tourism at World Heritage properties through fostering increased awareness, capacity and balanced participation of all stakeholders in order to protect the properties and their Outstanding Universal Value whilst ensuring that tourism delivers benefits for conservation of the properties’ sustainable development for local communities as well as a quality experience for visitors.

Key elements in realizing the vision and mission

  • An interpretation and implementation of the World Heritage Convention that embraces sustainable tourism;
  • National, regional and local governments have policies and frameworks that recognise sustainable tourism as an important vehicle for managing their cultural and natural heritage;
  • All stakeholders are aware and committed to sustainable development, and have the capacity to manage tourism sustainably;
  • Local communities take pride in- and have a sense of responsibility and empowerment towards the World Heritage properties contributing to property conservation and the sustainable management of tourism at the World Heritage destinations;
  • The tourism sector values World Heritage and engages in its preservation while ensuring that its activities based at World Heritage properties are responsible, and support social and economic development;
  • Visitors understand and gain an appreciation of the meaning of Outstanding Universal Value of World Heritage and adopt responsible behaviours.

The five Programme objectives

  • Integrate sustainable tourism principles into the mechanisms of the World Heritage Convention.
  • Strengthen the enabling environment by advocating policies, strategies, frameworks and tools that support sustainable tourism as an important vehicle for protecting and managing cultural and natural heritage of Outstanding Universal Value.
  • Promote broad stakeholder engagement in the planning, development and management of sustainable tourism that follows a destination approach to heritage conservation and focuses on empowering local communities.
  • Provide World Heritage stakeholders with the capacity and the tools to manage tourism efficiently, responsibly and sustainably based on the local context and needs.
  • Promote quality tourism products and services that encourage responsible behaviour among all stakeholders and foster understanding and appreciation of the concept of Outstanding Universal Value and protection of World Heritage.

Programme Background

In 2011 UNESCO embarked on developing a new World Heritage and Sustainable Tourism Programme. The aim was to create an international framework for the cooperative and coordinated achievement of shared and sustainable outcomes related to tourism at World Heritage properties. The preparatory work undertaken in developing the Programme responded to the decision 34 COM 5F.2of the World Heritage Committee at its 34th session in Brasilia in 2010, which requested

“the World Heritage Centre to convene a new and inclusive programme on World Heritage and Sustainable Tourism, with a steering group comprising interested States Parties and other relevant stakeholders, and also requests the World Heritage Centre to outline the objectives and approach to the implementation of this programme".

International Instruments Relating to Sustainable Development and Tourism

Resolutions adopted by the United Nations, charters adopted by ICOMOS, decisions adopted by the World Heritage Committee, legal instruments adopted by UNESCO on heritage preservation.

People Protecting Places

People Protecting Places is the public exchange platform for the World Heritage and Sustainable Tourism Programme, providing education and information, encouraging support, engaging in social and community dialogue
Decisions (4)
Show 36COM 5E
Show 34COM 5F.2
Show 33COM 5A
Show 25COM XVII10