Asean, Unesco debate impact of tourism on heritage sites

VIENTIANE (Vientiane Times/ANN) - Luang Prabang City: More than 80 delegates from seven Asean member countries and representatives of the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco) are meeting in Luang Prabang province from November 5-7 to conduct an assessment of the positive and negative impacts created by tourism on Asean World Heritage Sites and Asean Heritage Parks. 

Delegates from national tourism and world heritage organisations, site managers and representatives from UNESCO offices are meeting for three days in Luang Prabang to highlight regional lessons learnt.

The workshop is organised by the Ministry of Information, Culture and Tourism in cooperation with UNESCO and supported by the Regional Economic Integration of Laos, Trade and Entrepreneurship Development (RELATED) project of the German Development Cooperation.

Deputy Minister of Information, Culture and Tourism, Mr Ounethouang Khaophanh, said the talks were an essential part of economic and social development, particularly with regard to investment in tourism by the government, businesses, international organisations, and local tourism agencies.

The Asean region has diverse traditions, cultures and ethnic origins, and impressive archaeological and historical sites, which have huge potential for development as international tourist destinations, he added.

The workshop comprises various activities to enable delegates to learn from UNESCO consultants and to share experiences and best practices, as well as site visits and discussions about the development of tourist attractions in Asean World Heritage Sites and Asean Heritage Parks.

Besides country overviews and case studies, the application of the Visitor & Tourism Management Assessment Tool (VT MAT) is a key element of impact assessment.

This tool has been specifically designed to help tourism and heritage organisations as well as site managers to assess the degree to which existing visitor and tourism management protects the heritage values of the sites and contributes to sustainable development.

“It assists in the identification of areas for improvement, in the formulation and implementation of measures as well as in monitoring and demonstrating progress in the sustainability of tourism management over time,” said the Head of the UNESCO World Heritage Centre in Paris, Mr Peter Debrine, and Prof. Robyn Bushell from Western Sydney University who accompanied the workshop as resource persons.

“The German Development Cooperation is very proud to support sustainable tourism in Laos through this event, and also with its assistance to the introduction of the Plastic Free Laos Label and the recently organised Sustainable Tourism Solutions Expo,” said Senior Advisor for Tourism with the RELATED project, Ms Thuy Phuong Nguyen.

Laos has three World Heritage Sites – the old town in Luang Prabang, Vat Phou in Champassak province, and the Plain of Jars in Xieng Khuang province – as well as an Asean Heritage Site in the Namha National Protected Area in Luang Namtha province.

More than 3.4 million people vacationed in Laos in the first nine months of this year, an increase of about 11 percent compared to last year.

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