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Sustainable Tourism

UNESCO World Heritage and Sustainable Tourism Programme

© The photo archives of the Governing Body of Suomenlinna, Author: Lentokuva Vallas Oy

The UNESCO World Heritage and Sustainable Tourism Programme represents a new approach based on dialogue and stakeholder cooperation where planning for tourism and heritage management is integrated at a destination level, the natural and cultural assets are valued and protected, and appropriate tourism developed.


World Heritage and tourism stakeholders share responsibility for conservation of our common cultural and natural heritage of Outstanding Universal Value and for sustainable development through appropriate tourism management.


Facilitate the management and development of sustainable tourism at World Heritage properties through fostering increased awareness, capacity and balanced participation of all stakeholders in order to protect the properties and their Outstanding Universal Value.

Focus Areas

Policy &

Sustainable Tourism Policy and Strategy Development
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Tools &

Sustainable tourism tools
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Capacity Building Activities
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Creation of thematic routes to foster heritage based sustainable tourism development
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Sustainable Tourism Policy
and Strategy Development

©Yuri Peshkov

A key goal of the UNESCO WH+ST Programme is to strengthen the enabling environment by advocating policies and frameworks that support sustainable tourism as an important vehicle for managing cultural and natural heritage. Developing strategies through broad stakeholder engagement for the planning, development and management of sustainable tourism that follows a destination approach and focuses on empowering local communities is the central to UNESCO’s approach.

The Silk Road

Developing a Sustainable Tourism Strategy for the Silk Roads Heritage Corridors

With a focus on early intervention and upstream processes, UNESCO and UNWTO, supported by the UNESCO/Netherlands Funds-in-Trust, is launching a major project in 2013 that will provide policy guidance to the destinations and will develop a common sustainable tourism strategy for visitor management, site presentation and promotion along these heritage Corridors.

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Defining the relationship between world heritage and sustainable tourism

Based on the report of the international workshop on Advancing Sustainable Tourism at Natural and Cultural Heritage Sites (Mogao, China, September 2009), the World Heritage Committee at its 34th session adopted the policy orientations which define the relationship between World Heritage and sustainable tourism (Decision 34 COM 5F.2).

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Sustainable Tourism Tools

Manage tourism efficiently, responsibly and sustainably
based on the local context and needs

©UNESCO/Peter DeBrine

People Protecting Places is the public exchange platform for the World Heritage and Sustainable Tourism Programme, providing education and information, encouraging support, engaging in social and community dialogue

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The 'How-To' guides offer direction and guidance to managers of World Heritage tourism destinations and other stakeholders to help identify the most suitable solutions for circumstances in their local environments and aid in developing general know-how.

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Sustainable World Heritage Tourism Checklist is developed in the framework of the project Towards a Nordic-Baltic pilot region for World Heritage and Sustainable Tourism, it covers issues such as organization and management, monitoring, local communities, environmental issues, and visitor management.

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Capacity Building Activities

Helping site managers and other tourism stakeholders
to manage tourism more sustainably

©African World Heritage Fund (AWHF)

Capacity Building in
4 Africa Nature Sites

A series of practical training and workshops are being organized in four priority natural World Heritage sites in Africa (Lesotho, Malawi, South Africa, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe) with the aim of providing capacity building tools and strategies for site managers to help them manage tourism at their sites more sustainably.

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15 Pilot Sites in
Nordic-Baltic Region

The project Towards a Nordic-Baltic pilot region for World Heritage and Sustainable Tourism (2012-2014) was initiated by the Nordic World Heritage Foundation (NWHF). With a practical approach, the project has contributed to tools for assessing and developing sustainable World Heritage tourism strategies with stakeholder involvement and cooperation.

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Heritage Routes

Creation of thematic routes to foster heritage based sustainable tourism development

© UNESCO/Junaid Sorosh-Wali

Cultural tourism is one of the largest and fastest-growing global tourism markets. Culture and creative industries are increasingly being used to promote destinations and enhance their competitiveness and attractiveness.

Many locations are now actively developing their cultural assets as a means of developing comparative advantages in an increasingly competitive tourism marketplace, and to create local distinctiveness in the face of globalization.

UNESCO will endeavour to create networks of key stakeholders to coordinate the destination management and marketing associated with the different heritage routes to promote and coordinate high-quality, unique experiences based on UNESCO recognized heritage. The goal is to promote sustainable development based on heritage values and create added tourist value for the sites.


© UNESCO/ Peter DeBrine

Programme Background

In 2011 UNESCO embarked on developing a new World Heritage and Sustainable Tourism Programme.

The aim was to create an international framework for the cooperative and coordinated achievement of shared and sustainable outcomes related to tourism at World Heritage properties.

International Instruments

International Instruments Relating to Sustainable Development and Tourism.

Resolutions adopted by the United Nations, charters adopted by ICOMOS, decisions adopted by the World Heritage Committee, legal instruments adopted by UNESCO on heritage preservation.

Decisions (4)
Show 36COM 5E
Show 34COM 5F.2
Show 33COM 5A
Show 25COM XVII10