While tourism contributes immensely to a country’s GDP, it is important that regulations be put in place to curb overtourism, failing which the ethos and sanctity of heritage and culture of a place may be damaged.
The World Tourism Association for Culture and Heritage (WTACH) has been launched to protect local cultures, heritage and historical sites that are in peril from overtourism. The new association will promote ethical practices and better management relating to culture and heritage destinations that are now buckling due to unrestricted visitor growth. WTACH will also encourage the implementation of sustainable practices at locations that are still in the honeymoon phase of tourism development. The creation of WTACH comes at a time when the UNWTO reports that international tourism arrivals hit 1.4 billion in 2018, two years ahead of its previous forecast of 2020.
The global economy grew 3.7 per cent in 2018, says UNWTO, propelling international tourism arrivals growth to six per cent for the year. To advance its agenda, WTACH has been launched with 15 specialist advisors from diverse backgrounds, who will work with destinations that need help now or want to put plans in place before running into trouble.
WTACH is the brainchild of its founder and CEO, Chris Flynn, a former director for the Pacific region at the Pacific Asia Travel Association, a role he held for 15 years. He says, “WTACH works with destinations to provide development strategies and policy framework recommendations to avoid the kind of tourism meltdown we are seeing at Angkor Wat, Phi Phi Island and Mount Everest. It’s time for the tourism industry to take a step back and look at the long-term impact of its decision making.”
Social media and mobile devices aren’t helping. Carolyn Childs, CEO of MyTravelResearch.com, and a member of the WTACH advisory specialising in analysing data and trends, says it is no coincidence that WTACH is being born at a time when ‘selfie’ culture and the promotion of ‘Instagrammable’ travel is sweeping the world. On the supply side, WTACH believes that destinations should no longer make arrival numbers their holy grail.