Since its foundation, World Congresses of the OWHC have furthered their evolution through meetings of the OWHC community held every two years on the many topics related to Urban World Heritage.
The next World Congress of the Organization of World Heritage Cities (OWHC), will be held from 2-5 June 2019 in Krakow, Poland. The theme of this 15th OWHC World Congress will be “Heritage and Tourism: Local communities and visitors – sharing responsibilities”.
Why heritage and tourism?
According to the World Tourism Organization, in 2017, “[…] international tourist arrivals grew by a remarkable 7% in 2017 to reach a total of 1,322 billion”. This number is expected to increase to 1.8 billion by 2030.
Indeed, tourism is a major economic activity for several cities inscribed on the World Heritage List. However, the massive arrival of visitors in a city sometimes has negative outcomes on its heritage resources and on the local communities that experience the influx on a daily basis.
To mitigate these problems, a more durable form of tourism must emerge and take account of the economic, social and environmental needs of places where tourism is prevalent. More particularly, the OWHC is interested in projects and means to allow world heritage cities to welcome visitors from around the world and safeguard their heritage and the well-being of their communities.
Why talk about a shared responsibility between visitors and local communities?
This shared responsibility is reflected in the development of the following elements:
The first element is found in the recommendations made to the world heritage cities during the 14th World Congress in 2017. Indeed, it is a given fact that local populations are entitled to involvement in the identification, preservation, and management of unesco property. But they should also be encouraged to contribute to initiatives, projects, and decisions that have an impact on their city’s heritage.
The shared responsibility of visitors, on the other hand, is motivated by the internationalization of their practices that might affect the authenticity of the sites visited. Among these practices, it is possible to determine consumer habits that lead to the emergence of recurrent factors in the touristic landscape, for example souvenir shops and fast food. In the past 10 years, new forms of accommodation have also emerged with the sharing economy (e.g., the AirBnB website). Growing numbers of tourists have also amplified city transportation problems.
The OWHC proposes shared responsibility as a solution to this new information on tourism in the 21st century.
Various subthemes will be addressed during the sessions:
Depending on the culture of the city, its context and its challenges, a very large number of tools and methods of communication can be developed to sensitize the intended audience to tourism and heritage. The word “communication” is used here in its broadest sense and can, for example, refer to a particular signage for visitors as well as a practical guide for local residents.
With the ever-growing number of tourists in the world, some cities are now confronted with a problem of “overtourism”, due
to their strong popularity. However, strategies exist to ensure a better distribution of visitors, on the territory and over time, and thus anticipate and counter the negative effects of this new phenomenon.
Sustainable Tourism and the HUL Approach
The recommendation concerning the Historic Urban Landscape (HUL) is defined by an integrated approach to heritage management and urban development. In a tourist city, the HUL can also provide guidelines to help create an effective strategy to promote sustainable tourism.
Local Communities and Tourism
The recommendations adopted at the 14th World Congress of the owhc in Gyeongju remind us that local communities have the right to be involved in the conservation and management of heritage, and that they should be consulted about any decisions that could affect them. Because heritage and tourism are intimately linked, it is necessary to think of ways to encourage local communities to participate in the development of their city’s tourism strategies.