The World Tourism Association for Culture and Heritage (WTACH) has been formed to protect local cultures, heritage and historical sites that are in peril from overtourism.
The new association will promote ethical practices and better management relating to culture and heritage destinations that are now buckling due to unrestricted visitor growth. WTACH will also encourage the implementation of sustainable practices at locations that are still in a honeymoon phase of tourism development.
The creation of WTACH comes at a time when the UNWTO reports that international tourism arrivals hit 1,4 billion in 2018, two years ahead of its previous forecast of 2020. The global economy grew 3,7 percent in 2018, according to UNWTO, propelling international tourism arrivals growth to six percent for the year.
To advance its agenda, WTACH has been launched with 15 specialist advisors from diverse backgrounds relating to the culture and heritage tourism sector. They will work with destinations that need help now or want to put plans in place before running into trouble.
WTACH is the brainchild of its founder and CEO, Chris Flynn, a former director for the Pacific region at the Pacific Asia Travel Association, a role he held for 15 years.
Flynn said that emerging tourism destinations need more help. While there are overtourism abuses in economically developed, highly regulated destinations, Flynn argues that it is in lesser economically developed destinations where overtourism has disproportionately greater negative impact.
WTACH works with destinations to provide development strategies and policy framework recommendations to avoid the kind of tourism meltdown we are seeing at Angkor Wat, Phi Phi Island and Mt Everest, according to Flynn.
WTACH’s position is that tourism needs to respect host communities and their cultural and heritage assets by adhering to a framework that has the host community at its heart.
Social media and mobile devices are not helping. Carolyn Childs, CEO, MyTravelResearch.com, and a member of the WTACH advisory specialising in analysing data and trends, said that it is no coincidence that WTACH is being born at a time when a selfie culture and the promotion of Instagramable travel is sweeping the world.