World Heritage and Tourism

The World Heritage Convention only mentions tourism once, and it does so in the context of threats of a magnitude potentially great enough to warrant putting a site on the List of World Heritage Sites in Danger. When tourism is not being discussed as a direct threat to World Heritage Sites, it is typically considered in terms of providing appropriate facilities for visitors or with the potential economic benefits that tourism can bring both to individual sites and their surrounding areas. However, there is a need to consider how tourists engage with and experience World Heritage in broader terms. The Budapest Declaration outlines a number of strategic objectives, of which the fourth is to “increase public awareness, involvement and support for World Heritage through Communication” (UNESCO World Heritage Centre, 2002, emphasis original). This theme is expanded on in the ‘awareness-raising and education’ section of the Operational Guidelines (UNESCO World Heritage Centre, 2015, VI.C). Although there is a clear emphasis on communication of the key themes of World Heritage through education, the general public, including tourists, are also identified as a significant audience.

This session will examine the theme of World Heritage and tourism in relation to the experience of World Heritage sites by tourists, exploring the nature of communication to tourists and the many and varied ways they may interact with the sites they visit. As tourism is characterised by its short term nature, is it possible for individuals to gain anything more than a surface level experience of World Heritage, and is this different to the sort of experience they might have at sites not inscribed on the List.

The session will be led by Coralie Acheson of the Ironbridge International of Cultural Heritage and include the following papers along with a keynote paper by Peter Debrine of UNESCO;

Protect and Prosper – World Heritage and Tourism in the Wadden Sea

Dr. Harald Marencic

The Stories within the Stones: A year of interaction and engagement at an UNESCO World Heritage Site

Jane Gibson & Jo Shoebridge

An Integrated Approach to Heritage Communication: bridging the gap between the tangible and the intangible

Yanwei Han


For further information and if you have any questions please email:

Jamie Davies

Teaching Fellow in Cultural Heritage, Ironbridge International Institute for Cultural Heritage