Tourism and Heritage: Contributing to the international debate
At the International Conference on Seizing Tourism Market Opportunities in Times of Rapid Change, held on 5 and 6 June 2012 at the Dead Sea, Jordan, UNESCO representative in Jordan, Anna Paolini, participated as panelist and highlighted the complex relationship between tourism and heritage stressing that heritage preservation must be a top priority in Jordan’s tourism growth.
Jordan has a rich cultural and natural heritage, which every year attracts a considerable number of tourists making tourism into the second highest source of income for the country. At the session How can destinations seize the opportunities afforded by rapidly changing market conditions? The Jordanian experience, Anna Paolini, underlined the deep connection of tourism with the country’s rich cultural and natural heritage and how in view of this richness, it is crucial to remember that heritage is fragile, and its preservation must be at the first place. While acknowledging that tourism represents an important field of growth and income for the country, Anna Paolini reminded that “Heritage is not a renewable resource: once it is damaged, it cannot be recovered and the values for which it became a visitor attraction are lost forever”. In order to safeguard heritage, heritage sites have to adhere to certain regulations and cannot be expanded arbitrarily, therefore, though sometimes at the disadvantage of comfort, it is “tourists that should adapt to the site and not vice versa”. She also highlighted that there should be a balance between the pressure of tourism and heritage preservation, and an understanding of the complex relation between tourism and culture among tourism stakeholders. “Tourists should be aware of the heritage and its fragility, and be prepared and informed by tourist guides. It is also very important to remember that tourism is a human experience, and not just an exchange of commodities, as it brings people into contact and helps combating stereotypes while building dialogue, thus contributing to a culture of peace and dialogue among civilizations. The aim of UNESCO is to contribute to a tourism that recognizes the world cultural diversity and the fragility of the cultural and natural heritage. This type of tourism will be sustainable, bringing to a sustainable development” said Anna Paolini.
Jordan is home to four World Heritage Sites: Petra, Quseir Amra, Umm er-Rasas, Wadi Rum Protected Area, two Man and the Biosphere Reserves Dana and Wadi Mujib, as well as the Cultural Space of the Bedu in Petra and Wadi Rum, inscribed on the list of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. The nomination of Wadi Rum as a World Heritage site, and the declaration of Wadi Mujib as Man and the Biosphere Reserve, both took place in 2011 and represent an exceptional result for the country, demonstrating that Jordanian heritage is globally recognized and that the country is committed to its enhancement and promotion. In addition, 15 potential sites presented by Jordan are currently the UNESCO World Heritage Tentative List, and work is being done to nominate two new sites in the World Heritage List, the Baptism Site and Pella.
The conference on Seizing Tourism market opportunities in times of rapid change was jointly organized by the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) and the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities of Jordan, and brought together international tourism stakeholders from public and private sector.
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