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The Sustainability Paradox: Developing and Managing Tourism at Urban World Heritage Sites.

The Sustainability Paradox: Developing and Managing Tourism at Urban World Heritage sites


Is increased tourism good or bad for Penang? How much should people be willing to allow their community to evolve in the chase for the tourism ringgit? 2017 was designated as the year of International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development. Under the theme of Travel – Enjoy – Respect, the year is a unique opportunity to mobilize all stakeholders to work together in making tourism a catalyst for positive change. The challenge, however, is meeting the development expectations of those stakeholders: public and private sector decision-makers, local communities and visitors, and determining what positive change actually means. For urban World Heritage sites this is especially important, including the focus on  maintaining a venue’s Outstanding Universal Value (OUV) – its cultural and/or natural significance which is deemed so exceptional, transcending national boundaries to be of common importance for present and future generations of all humanity. Many urban World Heritage sites such as Lijiang, Luang Prabang, Quebec and Venice appreciate the economic benefits and job creation from tourism, but often struggle under the weight of change to these historic communities that increased visitation unleashes. This presentation will provide a broad overview of the current tourism development issues being faced by urban World Heritage sites, the strategies that are being developed to deal with increased tourism numbers, and how these can help shape future tourism development for George Town.

About the Speaker

Fergus Maclaren is a sustainable tourism and cultural heritage management professional with 25 years of experience, and much of that work taking place in Asia. He is also the Canadian National Expert Representative for the ICOMOS International Cultural Tourism Committee. Fergus has served as the Director of the International Year of Ecotourism in 2001-03, where he led sessions on tourism development at natural World Heritage sites in the Africa and Asia regional meetings on behalf of UNESCO. He has also worked on visitor management and sustainability at indigenous World Heritage sites in what ICOMOS and IUCN have come to refer to as the Nature-Culture Journey.  Recent projects include coaching site candidates to initiate their nominations for Canada’s Tentative World Heritage list; developing the visitor management component of the Mount Royal proponent to the list; and co-authoring a chapter on Sustainable Development Goal 8 – Decent Work and Economic Growth on behalf of Routledge Books. He has travelled to Malaysia several times to conduct research, participate in cultural heritage and tourism conferences, and partake in travel writing tours sponsored by Tourism Malaysia. Fergus was most recently in the country in 2008, when he was one of the ‘engines’ of the Cascades Club Mixed Senior Dragonboat at the World Club Crew Championships in Penang.