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The Chetiyagiri Vihara temple near the Great Stupa was built in the 20th century to house relics of Buddha's disciples Sariputta and Moggallana.
© Michael Turtle

Step 4: How Can You Support World Heritage Conservation?

Once you understand what World Heritage is, why your site was inscribed, and the conservation threats to your site, you can start to think about what you, your business, and your guests can do to help support conservation at your World Heritage site.

As a tourism business in or near a World Heritage site, there are many opportunities for you to support the conservation of World Heritage. Among the most important things you can do right away is to educate your staff and your guests about the importance of World Heritage, and encourage them to be mindful of common threats and take small steps to mitigate their conservation impact.

Understand the Conservation Context at Your World Heritage Site

Each World Heritage site faces certain pressures that affects its long-term conservation. Common conservation threats include encroaching development such as commercial development, housing or infrastructure projects near the site itself. The site may also be affected by broader conditions in the destination such as widespread pollution, environmental affects of resource extraction, or natural disasters such as earthquakes, fires, or other severe weather events. In some cases, human activity may affect the site whether directly through actions like vandalism or other illegal activities, or indirectly through poor site management or insufficient conservation activities. Each World Heritage site endeavors to track and report on these common threats and produces a regular report called the State of Conservation report.

Why you can do:

  • Read and understand the state of conservation report for your World Heritage site. Only when you fully understand the pressures at work can you begin to understand how you can help mitigate or address these challenges.
  • Consider whether your business directly or indirectly contributes to any of the threats addressed in the report.

Help Guests Appreciate Your Site’s Outstanding Universal Value

Perhaps many of your clients and guests choose to visit your destination at least in part because of the nearby World Heritage site. However, there is a good chance that many of your guests and clients do not fully understand the significance of the World Heritage site nearby. If they do not appreciate the site, then they cannot be expected to treat the site with the respect and mindfulness required to conserve the site. It is your responsibility as a host to ensure that your guests understand and appreciate the World Heritage site. Doing so will help change guest behavior while deepening and enriching their experience in your destination.

What you can do

  • Educate your front-line staff about the World Heritage site—encourage them to consider themselves ambassadors for the site. Your staff interact with your guests each day, and the better they understand, appreciate, and value the site, the better they can communicate the site’s Outstanding Universal Value to your clients and guests.
  • Make available a collateral material such as brochure, flyer, postcard, or video to your guests which includes information about the World Heritage site. Install signage on your property where appropriate highlighting your connection to the site.
  • Encourage your guests to visit the site. Refer them to responsible local tour operators who can arrange a visit to the site. Any entrance fees or money spent on concessions will support the site’s conservation and management.
  • Showcase the World Heritage site on your marketing materials such as brochures or website, and make it clear what you do to support conservation of the site.
  • Connect interested guests and clients to organizations that actively support conservation of the site where they can make financial or in-kind contributions that go toward the site’s conservation.

Educate Guests About Expected Behavior at World Heritage Sites

Tourism can be a powerful force for conservation at World Heritage sites by creating a community of people who feel connected to a site and committed to its safekeeping. Unfortunately, poorly managed tourism at a site can contribute to conservation threats, especially when visitors act in a way that damages a site, undermines conservation initiatives, or contributes to underlying problems. As a member of the tourism industry, your business has a responsibility to ensure that your guests and clients actively participate in sustainable and responsible tourism at your World Heritage site. The best way to do this is by educating your guests about how they are expected to behave when visiting the site.

What you can do

  • Contact the site managers at your World Heritage site and request information about visitor behavior that can be shared with travelers.
  • Contact tourism authorities at your municipal, regional, or national tourism office to request information about sustainable tourism principles that can be shared with visitors.
  • Make available a piece of collateral like a brochure, flyer about guidelines on visitor behavior at the World Heritage site, and explain the practices described when a guest checks in or visits your business.

Contribute to Conservation Initiatives

If you are able to give, then your financial donation or in-kind contribution goes a long way towards supporting conservation at your World Heritage site. Many World Heritage sites maintain “Friends of” or “Supporter” programs that recognize local businesses and patrons who donate to the site. Even if you can’t give financially, there are still opportuntiies for you to support conservation at your World Heritage site.

What you can do

  • Contact the site managers at your World Heritage site to understand if they accept donations for site conservation or if there is a “Supporter” program to accept donations.
  • Create a visitor-donation fund, where your guests and clients have an opportunity to leave a small donation as part of their bill.
  • Volunteer your time, or encourage your staff to volunteer their time to participate in clean-ups or other activities at the World Heritage site.

Set a High Standard for Sustainable Tourism in Your Destination

As an important player in the tourism industry, your staff, peers, and colleagues look to you for leadership and to set an example for how business leaders support conservation at World Heritage sites. It is up to you to encourage them to follow your lead to themselves do what they can to support World Heritage.

What you can do

  • Communicate the initiatives and programs that your business contributes to or participates in on your website and other public materials—let people know how you are supporting World Heritage and how they can do the same.
  • Participate in community meetings, destination management groups, sustainable tourism committees, or other forums for stakeholders to collaborate on sustainable tourism programs. If none exist, then consider creating your own group along with industry partners in the destination.