Asia’s heritage sites strain under the weight of tourism

Tourism to ancient heritage sites is a major source of income for many Asian nations, but the signs of wear and tear to the monuments are fast becoming visible.

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photo credit: bob|P-&-S

Tourist Boom Puts Asia’s Treasures at Risk
AFP, via Jakarta Globe, 08 March 2011

As the world recovers from the financial crisis and infrastructure in developing countries improves, the number of people drawn to Asia’s cultural and natural riches has exploded.

While this brings in much-needed revenue, observers fear that the growth in tourism is putting unprecedented pressure on precious and often fragile World Heritage sites.

At Angkor Wat, the most impressive of the park’s many temples, tourists are largely free to wander around the 12th-century complex, ignoring one-way signs and clambering over fallen stones.

Many lean against the ancient walls, while others trace delicate bas reliefs with their fingers.

“You start to notice a little bit of wear and tear and you’re not sure if it’s from centuries of use or if it’s from lots of tourists,” said Rona Soranno, 36, from California, after completing a tour of the temple’s inner courtyard.

Her 33-year-old partner Marcus Welsh added: “On the one hand it’s totally awesome that I am able to step on the stones and be close to so much history, but you have to wonder what it’s going to look like years from now.”


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Author: Noel Tan

Dr Noel Hidalgo Tan is the Senior Specialist in Archaeology at SEAMEO-SPAFA, the Southeast Asian Regional Centre for Archaelogy and Fine Arts.

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