Experts assess management at World Heritage sites in Laos

VIENTIANE (Vientiane Times/ANN) - Government officials and United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) experts met in Vientiane on Friday to discuss ways to improve tourism management in World Heritage sites and buffer zones in Laos.

The discussions will assist Lao heritage sites and national and provincial governments to improve heritage management and strengthen national laws and regulations.

The meeting was held under the title “UNESCO World Heritage Centre Visitor and Tourism Management Assessment Tool for UNESCO World Heritage Sites”.

Speaking at the meeting, a representative from the GIZ EU Switch Asia Luang Prabang Handle with Care Project, Professor Robyn Bushell, said the UNESCO World Heritage Centre had developed a Visitor Management Assessment Tool (VMAT) to support UNESCO World Heritage site managers in managing the impacts and improvements of tourism on heritage, conservation and communities.

“Informed by governance, regulations and the policy framework of action-oriented heritage management can continuously be made over time,” he said.

Professor Bushell said the VMAT takes an action-oriented approach. The assessment has provided feedback on the effectiveness of what is being done, what could be done, and highlights issues to improve the effectiveness of managing tourism in a World Heritage site and making effective use of resources.

He said the tool was designed to support site mangers and assess the degree to which existing visitor management is contributing to the protection of heritage values of the site and to sustainable development.

The assessment illustrates the extent to which the objectives of the World Heritage Convention, relating to the economy, including socio- conservation, credibility, communication, capacity-building and communities, are being achieved.

It also assesses how cultural and environmental sustainability and inclusive development are being achieved, as well as identifying issues and areas of concern for site management.

A VMAT assessment report is currently being prepared, outlining practical measures, existing instruments and tools that can be incorporated into the management of the World Heritage listed areas of Luang Prabang.

This will generate a relevant assessment of current activities, and identify areas for improvement.

Data was collected from documents provided, discussions with officials in the Luang Prabang Heritage Office, the Department of Information, Culture and Tourism, and tourism operators in Luang Prabang.

This draft report is intended to contribute to the formulation of a ministerial decision on world heritage sites management in Laos.

The meeting was organised by the Ministry of Information, Culture and Tourism and the GIZ EU Switch Asia Luang Prabang Handle with Care Project.

It was attended by the Deputy Minister of Information, Culture and Tourism, Mr Bouangeun Xaphouvong, EU Ambassador to Laos Mr Leo Faber, and senior government officials.

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