Mountain gorilla, Bwindi Impenetrable National Park.
In his keynote speech at the recent “Tourism for Tomorrow” World Travel and Tourism Council meeting in Abu Dhabi, President Bill Clinton spoke about the positive effect that international cross border tourism can have on human society.
“I am fundamentally optimistic about the power of tourism as a positive force of good in the world” he said. “Peace works better than conflict, and one of the best manifestations of that, is tourism”.
He was referring to the understanding and acceptance of other people and their cultures that can come from meeting with them face to face and experiencing their lives and thereby reaching a better understanding of them and their values.
Unsustainable tourism obviously can have a damaging and detrimental effect on fragile environments and with the UNWTO predicting 1.6 Billion cross border tourists by 2020, there are critical issues that will need to be faced in both visitor number management and in building infrastructure to support this projected influx.
People management will be particularly important for sites that are becoming seen as “must see” locations and where visitors often outnumber the locals whose lives the tourists have often come especially to experience and see.
However as Clinton pointed out, on the positive side, there are benefits to all, both locals and visitors of carefully managed visits to a special place. This can be illustrated in the photographs we are sharing today of one of the world’s most remote and important landscapes - Uganda’s Bwindi Impenetrable National Park World Heritage site.
The relatively small groups of visitors who visit this park and in particular the Gorilla sanctuary that is part of the overall site, return home with stories and pictures which they can then share with the wider world. This outreach increases awareness and understanding of the site and by building a sense of stewardship in distant viewers, can reinforce the need to protect and preserve this special environment and the unique wildlife that lives within it. The visits by these tightly controlled groups of tourists also generate revenue for the local community and this reduces the need for poaching and uneconomic land clearing.
This small but important example shows how tourism helps spread the message about preserving and protecting the natural and cultural assets that make up our place on our planet and at the same time improve the lives of the local people.
If you have visited and photographed any of the sites we are introducing today, or for that matter any WH sites around the world, share your photos and thoughts with the wider community by uploading them to our public access website. www.ourplacephotos.org
We will all look forward to seeing them....
Our Place World Heritage