World Heritage Alliance for Sustainable Tourism Triples Membership After Only Two Years
New York, NY (Vocus) November 28, 2007
Expedia, Inc. (Nasdaq: EXPE) and the United Nations Foundation (UN Foundation) announced today the addition of 36 new members to the World Heritage Alliance for Sustainable Tourism (WHA). WHA, an industry-leading initiative formed by Expedia® and the UN Foundation in 2005 to promote sustainable tourism around the 851 UNESCO World Heritage sites, celebrates its 2nd anniversary this week, and also announced the expansion of its programs into three new regions: Central America, the Caribbean, and the Middle East.
The addition of new members and partners brings total WHA membership to 50. Of the new members, 20 are from the travel industry, including lodging providers, tour operators, cruise lines and airlines. Each of these new members has committed to sustainable business practices, supporting local communities, and educating travelers on the importance of World Heritage conservation and sustainable tourism.
Together with returning industry members, the World Heritage Alliance’s 27 industry members. New WHA members are: Black Orchid Resort; California State Automobile Association; Casona de la China Poblana Hotel Boutique; Copamarina Beach Resort;Estrella de Belem Bed & Breakfast & Spa; Exotica Cottage Resort; Green Hotels of Costa Rica; Grupo Islita; Grupo Plan; Hawaii Forest & Trail; Hotel Antigua Alquería de Carrión; Hotel La Quinta Luna; Jungle Bay Resort & Spa; Lodge at Chaa Creek; Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group; Mesones Sacristia; NatureAir; Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd.; Sheraton Old San Juan; and Whipray Caye Lodge.
Returning WHA members are: El Sueño Hotel and Spa; Fairmont Hotels & Resorts; Maroma Resort and Spa (Orient-Express Hotels, Trains & Cruises); Mayaland Resorts Group; Paraiso de la Bonita Resort and Thalasso; Radar Tours; and Solimar Travel.
There are now also a total of 21 associate partners, including five returning associate partners. Associate partners are governmental bodies, civil society groups, trade associations or other private sector partners who provide services to advance the WHA mission such as consumer education, community development and technical training on sustainability issues.
The new WHA associate partners are: Belize Tourism Board; Belize Tourism Industry Association; Big Island Visitors Bureau; Instituto Costarricense de Turismo; Discover Dominica Tourism Authority; Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park; International Tourism Partnership; International Community Foundation; San Juan National Historic Site; Mexico Boutique Hotels; Ministry of Antiquities & Tourism of Jordan; Municipality of San Juan; Puerto Rico Hotel & Tourism Association; Solimar International; USAID/Jordan Tourism Development Project (Siyaha); and the U.S. National Park Service.
Returning WHA associate partners are: Academex Digital Publishing; Destination Ventures; Mexico Tourism Board; Rainforest Alliance; and the Secretary of Tourism for Mexico (SECTUR).
“As the number of international tourist arrivals continues to grow, travel can play a tremendous role in positively impacting the cultural, economic and environmental well being of the world’s most treasured destinations. We are excited about the achievements of the World Heritage Alliance in the regions we’ve worked with thus far,” said Dara Khosrowshahi, CEO of Expedia, Inc. “The success of WHA is dependent upon industry involvement, and the commitment of our 36 new members will help us in achieving greater results.”
“Sustainable travel is among the fastest growing tourism markets in the world,” said Timothy E. Wirth, president of the United Nations Foundation. “The incredible growth of the sustainable tourism market shows the tremendous potential for the travel industry and traveling public to protect biodiversity and cultural heritage while promoting sustainable development. The World Heritage Alliance members and partners are leaders in a growing movement toward sustainable travel.”
All members were recognized this week at a series of events in New York, including a dinner and symposium discussing major issues related to World Heritage and sustainable tourism. This growth triples the membership base of the WHA, and is fueling the expansion of the programs to reach seven countries and support the protection of more than 20 World Heritage sites.
“Heritage protection and a healthy tourism industry have much in common,” said Francesco Bandarin, director of UNESCO’s World Heritage Centre. “When managed well, tourism contributes to site conservation and helps create the right conditions for economic development that benefits local people. The World Heritage Alliance for Sustainable Tourism, with its focus on the tourism industry, plays an important role in supporting UNESCO’s work on building site management capacity for conserving the world’s most outstanding protected places. We want to continue to reinforce and develop partnerships with the industry to develop innovative solutions to tourism issues facing the sites.”
Expedia and the UN Foundation also announced several new initiatives for 2008:
WHA will carry out two additional Expedia Employee Service Program (EESP) engagements in 2008, for which a select group of Expedia staff volunteers and UN Foundation representatives will travel to two separate locations near World Heritage sites to work with local tourism enterprises. The Expedia Employee Service Program leverages Expedia’s deep knowledge of travel to help local community tourism groups develop build sustainable tourism-based economies while preserving the communities’ cultural, physical and environmental integrity.
A partnership with the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities for Jordan, UNESCO, and United States Agency for International Development’s Jordan Tourism Development Project (Siyaha) to strengthen the management of Jordan’s World Heritage sites. Efforts will include the launch of a public awareness campaign around Jordan’s three World Heritage sites in Petra, as well as a combination of grants to community-based organizations and local businesses, training, and development of local tourism projects and activities consistent with World Heritage and sustainable tourism principles.
A series of new awareness-raising campaigns on Friends of World Heritage (http://www.friendsofworldheritage.org), the sister initiative of the World Heritage Alliance aimed at the traveling public, devoted to World Heritage sites in Danger, World Heritage in the United States, and the role of local communities in World Heritage conservation. These campaigns will also provide a way for individuals around the world to donate in support of World Heritage sites in need.
Also in 2008, the UNESCO World Heritage Centre will launch a major new initiative on World Heritage and Sustainable Tourism, specifically targeted toward fostering a closer working relationship between the conservation community and the travel and tourism industry. Broad consultation among stakeholders will be used to develop policy guidance and a charter of good practices on the premise that when well managed, tourism can contribute to the conservation of sites and promote sustainable development of local communities.
In addition to the rapid expansion of the WHA, the partnership also celebrated the completion of three major initiatives in 2007:
Expedia® Employee Service Program: WHA carried out its first EESP deployment in 2006, working with a Mayan-owned community tour group in Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula near the Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve World Heritage site. In 2007, the EESP completed two additional project trips – one to El Senor, Mexico (also in near Sian Ka’an), and a second on the eastern Caribbean island of Dominica. According to an independent evaluation conducted in late 2007, “Expedia’s programs to strengthen Sian Ka’an [community tourism] have already had very positive, and in some cases, remarkable incremental impacts on the local Maya partner communities,” including a more than 100% increase in tour sales.
Education and training about World Heritage and sustainable tourism: In its second year, WHA further engaged the travel industry in its efforts through the WHA Industry Training Program on Responsible Tourism, which educates hospitality and tourism employees in highly visited tourism destinations on responsible tourism practices. To date, more than 450 hospitality workers in the Yucatan Peninsula, the Caribbean and Hawaii have participated in the program.
Support for local communities in and around World Heritage sites: In addition to the many WHA members who have developed initiatives to purchase food and products directly from local communities, WHA members responded quickly to support communities in and around the World Heritage site of Sian Ka’an in Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula after the area was struck by a category 5 hurricane in August. In conjunction with the online community http://www.FriendsofWorldHeritage.org, more than $ 65,000 was raised to aid communities, many of which earned their livelihoods through sustainable agriculture or forestry projects.
About the World Heritage Alliance for Sustainable Tourism:
The World Heritage Alliance for Sustainable Tourism (WHA) works to support World Heritage conservation, sustainable tourism, and local economic development for communities in and around World Heritage sites. The WHA for sustainable tourism was founded by the UN Foundation and Expedia in the fall of 2005 to support UNESCO’s goal of promoting and protecting World Heritage sites. For more information, visit: http://www.worldheritagealliance.org.
About World Heritage Alliance Membership:
The WHA offers two levels of partnership, each being committed to advancing the WHA mission: WHA members and WHA associate partners. WHA members consist of travel industry companies, such as hotels, tour operators, travel agents, airlines and cruises, among others. WHA associate partners are NGOs, civil society groups, government bodies and other organizations not exclusively devoted to tourism.
Each WHA member is committed to:
Implementing the World Heritage Alliance principles, a set of guidelines developed in consultation between the UN Foundation, Expedia, UNESCO World Heritage Centre and National Geographic that foster greater attention to social, cultural and environmental sustainability within their business.
Participating in staff training programs by enrolling their staff in occasional in-person or online training courses organized by the WHA that educate about the key issues related to World Heritage and sustainable tourism.
Educating customers about World Heritage by providing informational materials, exclusive packages to World Heritage destinations, volunteer opportunities with local communities, and the ability for customers to purchase goods and services that are rooted in local cultures and environments.
Supporting community development around World Heritage sites by working with local communities to build and enhance sustainable tourism opportunities for travelers and to provide markets for locally produced sustainable goods and services.
Engaging employees to support the local community through WHA volunteer programs that allow employees to work side-by-side with community-based initiatives.
Supporting the United Nations in its efforts to encourage sustainable tourism and the protection of World Heritage sites through the UNESCO World Heritage Convention.
About Expedia, Inc.:
Expedia, Inc. is the world’s leading online travel company, empowering business and leisure travelers with the tools and information they need to easily research, plan, book and experience travel. Expedia, Inc. also provides wholesale travel to offline retail travel agents and in-destination concierge service and activity desks for travelers. The Expedia, Inc. portfolio of brands includes: Expedia.com®, hotels.com®, Hotwire®, Expedia® Corporate Travel, TripAdvisor®, Expedia Local Expert™, Classic Vacations® and eLong™. Expedia, Inc.’s companies operate more than 50 global points of sale with sites in North America, South America, Latin America, Europe, Middle East, Africa and Asia Pacific. Expedia, Inc. was recently added to the S&P 500 index. For more information, visit http://www.expediainc.com/ (NASDAQ: EXPE).
About the UN Foundation:
The UN Foundation was created in 1998 with entrepreneur and philanthropist Ted Turner’s historic $ 1 billion gift to support UN causes and activities. The UN Foundation builds and implements public-private partnerships to address the world’s most pressing problems, and also works to broaden support for the UN through advocacy and public outreach. The UN Foundation is a public charity. For more information, visit http://www.unfoundation.org
About the World Heritage Centre
The World Heritage Centre is the focal point and coordinator within the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) for all matters related to World Heritage. It acts as the Secretariat of the World Heritage Committee, organizing its statutory meetings, developing and proposing policy on its behalf and actively ensuring the implementation of activities in accordance with its decisions and in co-operation with the States Parties and the Advisory Bodies (ICCROM, ICOMOS and IUCN). It provides advice to States Parties on the preparation of Tentative Lists and nominations to the World Heritage List and assures their receipt, registration, archiving and transmission to ICOMOS and/or IUCN. It also coordinates studies and activities in support of the Global Strategy for a balanced, representative and credible World Heritage List. The Centre organizes International Assistance from the World Heritage Fund, coordinates the Periodic Reporting exercise and reactive monitoring on the state of conservation of World Heritage properties as well as the emergency action undertaken when a property is threatened. It organizes technical seminars and workshops, and updates the World Heritage List and database, and promotes the World Heritage Convention to the general public.
The World Heritage Centre coordinates its activities with those of other multilateral cultural and environmental agreements, UNESCO cultural and natural heritage conventions and recommendations, to ensure complementarity and synergy. The Centre also identifies and implements regional and thematic programmes, and mobilizes additional financial and technical resources to ensure the conservation and management of World Heritage properties in partnership with other UN agencies, development banks, conservation NGOs, research institutions, foundations and the corporate sector. For more information, visit http://whc.unesco.org.
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