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9 Tough Lessons from SE Europe

Managing tourists at popular World Heritage sites has long been a focus for Englebert Ruoss, who formerly headed up the UNESCO office in Venice and has now launched a sustainable-destinations initiative called Global Regions. Its new 164-pp publication is SUSTAINABLE TOURISM AS DRIVING FORCE FOR CULTURAL
– Planning, Managing, Monitoring Cultural Heritage Sites in South East Europe,
which he describes as “a compendium focused on the broad field of interactions between heritage conservation and sustainable tourism.”

The nine examples of what to do—and not do—include Aquileia, Berat, Bitola, Cetinje, Dubrovnik, Hallstatt, Idrjia, Nafpaktos and, most notoriously, Venice. A major focus is the challenge of high-volume day-tripper tourism and its tendency toward maximum wear-and-tear with minimum benefits. The summation includes such items as a checklist useful for any mass-tourism site that has exceeded its capacity:

“Reducing the number of visitors:
• restricting entry or closing an area;
• limiting group sizes;
• implementing a quota or permit system;
• increasing fees, or charging different entrance fees on certain days of the week;
• not providing facilities;
• limiting the permissible length of stay in the area.
Visitorsʼ behaviour can be changed through:
• education programmes teaching low-impact ways to visit a site;
• programmes teaching respect for a siteʼs resources and protection issues.
Site managers may encourage visitors to practice particular activities by:
• raising or lowering prices for certain types of visitors;
• restricting opening hours;
• offering or not offering infrastructure;
• prohibiting certain activities through regulation and enforcement;
• zoning the site for a particular activity.
A siteʼs physical environment can be made more resistant to impacts by:
• using infrastructure to “harden” a site, e.g., hardening a trail with a wooden
boardwalk or installing permanent moorings at sea;
• relocating infrastructure to more resilient areas, e.g., moving a mountain refuge
to an area less prone to erosion.
Actions for reducing conflicts between visitors include:
• zoning an area for compatible activities.
Options for reducing conflict between local people and tourists include:
• channelling economic benefits to local populations;
• incorporating socio-cultural values into the siteʼs management planning and
development by increasing community participation.”

These are useful options for averting the loved-to-death syndrome at attractions anywhere in the world.

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