A Student of History

February 13, 2007

Too much of a good thing

Filed under: Historic Places — John Maass @ 2:16 pm

“The number-one threat to tourist treasures, paradoxically, is tourism itself. The challenge is how to keep the world’s most esteemed monuments from being loved to death. ”  So says an article on MSNCB’s website, regarding the influx of tourists at some delicate places in the world, such as the Great Wall, to the point that they are being wrecked.

“Tourism carries a tremendous potential that must be acknowledged as essential for the future of world heritage’,” says Bonnie Burnham, president of the World Monuments Fund (WMF). “But without proper management we can easily get out of control.” For all Hurricane Wilma’s wrath, patching Cancún back together will be easy compared with taming the monster that the tourist economy has unleashed. The 7 million visitors a year who descend on this megaresort and surrounding patches of the Mexican Caribbean coast already represent a conservation nightmare, straining water supply, sewers, and marine life. And it’s not just Mexico. Conservation International reckons that “unsustainable tourism” poses the main threat to half the cultural heritage sites in Latin America and the Caribbean, and to one in five sites in Asia and the Pacific. Cambodia’s once-remote Angkor temples now receive a million visitors a year; the Taj Mahal is subject to 7 million. Rising prosperity in the developing world, more and more elderly on the move, and cheap flights to anywhere will only hasten the human flood. China alone reported a staggering 1.1 billion domestic tourists in 2004.

The rest is here.

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