Tourism boom threatening heritage sites in China

The booming tourism growth in China is threatening the country’s heritage sites.

With China’s economy currently firing on all cylinders, domestic tourism has increased dramatically. In addition, globalisation has brought more foreign visitors to experience a country that was once behind the Bamboo Curtain. However, the increase in tourism has affected the upkeep of heritage sites in the country with many now believed to be under threat from irresponsible tourism. Some sites are thought to be under greater threat than others.

One example is the tiny village of Zili in southern China, famous for its Kaiping watchtowers, which make it a UNESCO world heritage site. The site houses hundreds of abandoned watchtowers in the Pearl River Delta. Surrounding the watchtowers are rice fields and lush bamboo groves. Families and villagers supposedly built the ornate towers during the early 19th and 20th centuries when it was common for hoards of bandits to attack. The turrets in the watchtowers helped villagers to look out for such attacks.

However the Kaiping watchtowers, also known as diaolou, are finding it more difficult to defend themselves against the ever-increasing number of tourists and the destruction they leave behind. Hoards of tourists are visiting these sites to take photos and to taste what is known locally as ‘peasant family foods’. The rustic charm of the village is an attractive selling point for tourists, who see a visit simply as a means of amusement. The state is also using other UNESCO sites to help develop backward rural areas.

China now has 43 world heritage sites, and the nation is trying to include more sites on the list, as listings attract tourists with money to spend. The downside is that at many heritage sites, conservationists are losing a battle against commercialisation.

Authorities are now trying to limit the number of customers by using various means, such as increasing costs or restricting visitor numbers.


Travellers have new options with additions to World Heritage list

Those travellers that have yet to finalise a destination for their next trip now have a plethora of new sites identified under the World Heritage List.

Travellers can now enjoy visiting 26 new sites that have been added to the list. In Paris, the World Heritage Committee ended its 36th session under the chair of Eleonora Mitrofanova, the Ambassador of Russia to UNESCO. The committee added the 26 new sites at the close of two weeks of deliberations.

The new additions include five natural destinations, twenty cultural destinations and one under the mixed category. With the new additions, the UNESCO’s World Heritage List now has a total of 962 properties. The countries in which these sites are located have now increased to 157 with Chad, Congo, Palau and Palestine the latest to be granted World Heritage sites on their territories.

Another positive development was that the committee removed Fort and Shalamar Gardens in Lahore (Pakistan) and the Rice Terraces of the Philippine Cordilleras (Philippines) from the List of World Heritage in Danger.

However, five sites were added to the Danger List because of concerns about their conservation. They include Timbuktu and the Tomb of Askia (Mali), The Birthplace of Jesus: Church of the Nativity and the Pilgrimage Route, Bethlehem (Palestine), Fortifications on the Caribbean Side of Panama: Portobelo-San Lorenzo (Panama); and Liverpool – Maritime Mercantile City (UK).

The committee’s next session will be held in Phnom Penh (Cambodia) from 17 to 27 of June 2013.

The new sites are:

Lakes of Ounianga (Chad);

Sangha Trinational (Cameroon, Central African Republic, Congo,);

Chengjiang Fossil Site (China);

Western Ghats (India);

Lena Pillars Nature Park (Russian Federation).

Rock Islands Southern Lagoon (Palau) was inscribed as a mixed natural and cultural site.

Pearling, Testimony of an Island Economy (Bahrain); Major Mining Sites of Wallonia (Belgium);

Rio de Janeiro, Carioca Landscapes between the Mountain and the Sea (Brazil);

The Landscape of Grand-Pre (Canada);

Site of Xanadu (China);

Historic Town Grand-Bassam (Cote d’Ivoire);

Nord-Pas de Calais Mining Basin (France);

Margravial Opera House Bayreuth (Germany);

Cultural Landscape of Bali Province: the Subak System as a Manifestation of the Tri Hita Karana Philosophy (Indonesia);

Masjed-e Jame of Isfahan (Islamic Republic of Iran),

Gonbad-e Qabus (Islamic Republic of Iran);

Sites of Human Evolution at Mount Carmel : The Nahal Me’arot/Wadi el-Mughara Caves (Israel);

Archaelogical Heritage of the Lenggong Valley (Malaysia);

Rabat, Modern Capital and Historic City: a Shared Heritage (Morocco);

Birthplace of Jesus: Church of the Nativity and the Pilgrimage Route, Bethlehem (Palestine);

Garrison Border Town of Elvas and its Fortifications (Portugal);

Bassari Country: Bassari, Fula and Bedik Cultural Landscapes (Senegal);

Heritage of Mercury Almaden and Idrija (Slovenia/Spain);

Decorated Farmhouses of Halsingland (Sweden);

Neolithic Site of Catalhoyuk (Turkey).


New Luxurious Jumeirah Resort Opens in Port Soller, Spain

The new Jumeirah Port Soller Hotel & Spa is now open in Spain.

Located on the Bay of Soller in Mallorca, this seaside luxury resort is the first European resort from the Jumeirah Group, a UAE-based luxury hospitality company.

The new hotel and spa has been constructed from local and sustainable materials, and is sited close to Orange Valley, in the Sierra de Tramuntana, a UNESCO World Heritage site. The hotel aims to acquire a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Gold Certification from the US Green Building Council (USGBC), for its sustainable practices.

The resort is offering 120 rooms and suites to its guests, with open balconies offering views of the bay. It also has two restaurants and four bars, two swimming pools, and the Talise Spa for relaxation.

The resort comprises 11 low-rise buildings, blending with the landscape and surrounding natural environment. The two new restaurants, Es Fanals and Cap Roig, are open and offering dishes that are based on the area’s cuisine and using local ingredients. Children will be able to spend their leisure time at the Barbaroja Kids Club, with guided tours, cooking classes and yoga sessions on offer.

The Port de Soller is a beachside fishermen’s village, and a part of the town of Soller, a natural port.

The island has 26 golf courses, as well as opportunities for adventure sports such as diving, snorkelling and fishing with experienced instructors.

Jumeirah Group owns six hotels in Europe, including the Jumeirah Lowndes Hotel in London, in UK, in addition to its numerous hotels in the Middle East.