2019 - Krakow, Poland

Krakow World Congress

Krakow World Congress | 2019

Don’t miss it!

The next World Congress of the Organization of World Heritage Cities (OWHC), will be held from 2-5 June 2019 in Krakow, Poland. The theme of this 15th OWHC World Congress will be “Heritage and Tourism: Local communities and visitors – sharing responsibilities”. A scientific committee is already working, under the direction of Professor Jacek Purchla, President of the Polish National Commission for UNESCO, and Peter Debrine, Project Officer for the Sustainable Tourism Program at the UNESCO World Heritage Center.

Why heritage and tourism?

According to the World Tourism Organization, in 2017, “[…] international tourist arrivals grew by a remarkable 7% in 2017 to reach a total of 1,322 billion. This strong momentum is expected to continue in 2018 at a rate of 4%-5%.”. Indeed, tourism is a major economic activity for several cities inscribed on the World Heritage List. However, the massive arrival of visitors in a city sometimes has negative outcomes on its heritage resources and on the local communities that experience the influx on a daily basis.

To mitigate these problems, a more durable form of tourism must emerge and take account of the economic, social and environmental needs of places where tourism is prevalent. More particularly, the OWHC is interested in projects and means to allow world heritage cities to welcome visitors from around the world and safeguard their heritage and the well-being of their communities.

Why talk about a shared responsibility between visitors and local communities?

This shared responsibility is reflected in the development of the following elements:

The first element is found in the recommendations made to the world heritage cities during the 14th World Congress in 2017. Indeed, it is a given fact that local populations are entitled to involvement in the identification, preservation, and management of UNESCO property. But they should also be encouraged to contribute to initiatives, projects, and decisions that have an impact on their city’s heritage.

The shared responsibility of visitors, on the other hand, is motivated by the internationalization of their practices that might affect the authenticity of the sites visited. Among these practices, it is possible to determine consumer habits that lead to the emergence of recurrent factors in the touristic landscape, for example souvenir shops and fast food. In the past 10 years, new forms of accommodation have also emerged with the sharing economy (e.g., the AirBnB website). Growing numbers of tourists have also amplified city transportation problems.

The OWHC proposes shared responsibility as a solution to this new information on tourism in the 21st century.

An initial overview of the symposium

A survey conducted among participants at the Congress in Gyeongju revealed to the OWHC the ever-increasing need for more debate and more time spent on the theme.

This is why a total of 17 hours over three days will be devoted to the issue of heritage and tourism. The symposium will consist of:

  • 6 hours of sessions earmarked for the presentation of projects and means developed by member cities of the OWHC;
  • 3 hours of guided tours of heritage sites in Krakow related to the theme;
  • 8 hours of workshops (4 hours held in parallel) for elected municipal officials and municipal managers responsible for heritage.

Various subthemes will be addressed during the sessions:

  1. Communicating Heritage
    Depending on the culture of the city, its context and its challenges, a very large number of tools and methods of communication can be developed to sensitize the intended audience to tourism and heritage. The word “communication” is used here in its broadest sense and can, for example, refer to a particular signage for visitors as well as a practical guide for local residents.

  2. ‘Overtourism’
    With the ever-growing number of tourists in the world, some cities are now confronted with a problem of “overtourism”, due to their strong popularity. However, strategies exist to ensure a better distribution of visitors, on the territory and over time, and thus anticipate and counter the negative effects of this new phenomenon.

  3. Sustainable Tourism and the HUL Approach
    The recommendation concerning the Historic Urban Landscape (HUL) is defined by an integrated approach to heritage management and urban development. In a tourist city, the HUL can also provide guidelines to help create an effective strategy to promote sustainable tourism.

  4. Local Communities and Tourism
    The recommendations adopted at the 14th World Congress of the OWHC in Gyeongju remind us that local communities have the right to be involved in the conservation and management of heritage, and that they should be consulted about any decisions that could affect them. Because heritage and tourism are intimately linked, it is necessary to think of ways to encourage local communities to participate in the development of their city’s tourism strategies.

Moreover, as in the past, we will offer a Journalists Workshop, a youth program, and thematic site visits.

Don’t wait to save the date of 2-5 June 2019!

2019 - Krakow, Poland

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