An international expert meeting focusing on “Tourism and World Heritage Sites” was held from 6 to 8 March 2008 at the Royal Saltworks of Arc-et-Senans, France. (The Saltwork is part of a property inscribed on the World Heritage List in 1982: From the Great Saltworks of Salins-les-Bains to the Royal Saltworks of Arc-et-Senans, the Production of Open-pan Salt).
This workshop was organized as part of an initiative to raise the profile of tourism and management for World Heritage Sites, and to provide site managers with a set of principles, tools, and methods to develop skills and technical capacity. A group representing UNESCO and the World Heritage Centre, with the support of the France-UNESCO Cooperation Agreement, several international NGOs, and representatives from various ministries and sites also participated. Over the course of several meetings, participants discussed the management of tourism and the public use of protected regions in general, and World Heritage properties particularly.
The goal of this initiative is to understand existing obstacles and provide site managers with new ideas and innovative tools to surmount those obstacles, to increase managerial efficiency, and develop sustainable financing mechanisms and the administration’s ability to work in conjunction with its constituent bodies. Currently, one of the main concerns of World heritage sites is unexpected and uncontrolled tourist pressure, along with the development of infrastructure that is incompatible with the Outstanding Universal Value of these sites. Even as pressure grows, the advisory bodies of the World Heritage Centre, including the IUCN, ICOMOS and ICCROM, as well as major stakeholders, such as the World Bank and UNWTO, are not yet able to provide common policies and approaches on tourism development and management issues. The hope was that this exercise would develop not only a range of common working practices, but would also lead to the adoption of a series of management instruments which would form the basis of a World Heritage programme on tourism and visitor management. This would lead to the training of experts who would use similar methods, working in pre-selected World Heritage properties, who would then train site staff on these common methods, and would facilitate the creation of local or regional networks or platforms that could use the World Heritage sites as an anchor point for training.
Subsequently, further work and discussions took place and workshops were organised which lead to the development of the World Heritage and Sustainable Tourism Programme, adopted by the World Heritage Committee at its 36th session (Saint Petersburg, 2012).