Rethinking the marketing of World Heritage Sites: Giving the past a sustainable future

AuthorJean Paul Berthon,Pierre Berthon,Ariel Fauconberg
Published date01 May 2018
Date01 May 2018
Rethinking the marketing of World Heritage Sites: Giving the
past a sustainable future
Ariel de Fauconberg |Pierre Berthon |Jean Paul Berthon
McCallum School of Business, Bentley
University, Waltham, Massachusetts 02452,
Pierre Berthon, McCallum School of Business,
Bentley University, Waltham, Massachusetts
02452, USA.
Despite significant global prestige and a strong brand presence, UNESCO World Heritage Sites
remain underfunded with many unable to selfsustain. Increasing government budget constraints
have further restricted funds and UNESCO's World Heritage Fund”—UNESCO's sole source of
financial assistance available to siteshas fallen to approximately $3M USD per annum. Few sites
are able to fully offset these budget constraints through tourist revenue alone, and those able to
do so often require additional repairs due to damage from visitors exceeding the site's capacity.
Although this situation is widely acknowledged within the heritage literature, few papers have
proposed longterm strategic solutions beyond marketing and management plans for individual
sites. The authors address this pressing issue by questioning whether World Heritage Sites in
general are currently being marketed in an optimized manner and proposing a new framework
for creating stronger and more appropriate relationships between visitors and sites using Berthon
et al.'s the Aesthetics and Ontology model. The authors argue that clarifying and optimizing the
marketing of World Heritage through this lens with its focus on the consumption experience of
visitors and other stakeholders will yield positive results for both the management of the sites
and for their impact on surrounding communities. Furthermore, the authors recommend that pol-
icies surrounding the management of these valuable resources and sources of tourist revenue be
modified to reflect these findings.
Since 1978, the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural
Organization's (UNESCO) World Heritage program has maintained an
official list of cultural and natural sites designated in the Convention
Concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage
as of outstanding valuethat need to be preserved as part of the
world heritage of mankind as a whole(UNESCO, 2016b). As of
2016, this list comprises 1,052 properties spread across 165 state
parties (UNESCO, 2016b). In terms of the US, there are currently 23
UNESCO World Heritage Sites. The best known of these include the
Statue of Liberty, San Antonio Missions, the Everglades National Park,
and the Grand Canyon. These sites are acknowledged to be widely
respected and wellknown brands at a global level, with state parties
competing for nominations due to the prestige and tourist revenue
the designation is believed to bring (Buckley, 2004; Hall, 2006; Ryan
& Silvanto, 2009; Shackley, 1998). Despite this significant global pres-
tige and strong brand recognition, many UNESCO World Heritage
Sites are currently underfunded; indeed, the USA ceased contributions
to UNESCO in October 2013 following the UN's recognition of
Palestine as a state. This has exacerbated damage to many World
Heritage Sites due to poorly managed and maintained tourist facilities
(Cochrane & Tapper, 2006) in addition to general entropy.
For a site to be accepted into the World Heritage List, the nomi-
nating party must submit a dossier with plans outlining how the nom-
inating state will meet the financial and management needs of the
location (ICOMOS, 2011). Although the World Heritage designation
has been shown to increase the chances of gaining government aid
or donations (Hall, 2006; Kim, Wong, & Cho, 2007), tightening govern-
ment budget constraints have placed a greater emphasis on tourist
generated income as crucial to sites' management plans (Garrod &
Fyall, 2000; Prideaux, 2002). UNESCO, in Article 17 of the Convention,
also encourages the establishment of national public and private foun-
dations or associations whose purpose is to invite donations for the
protection of the cultural and natural heritage.UNESCO itself is able
to offer resources to state parties with lesser means in the form of (a)
expert support to prevent deterioration of the site and (b) limited
funding through the World Heritage Fund,though strict priority is
given to those sites on the World Heritage in dangerlist (Poria,
Reichel, & Cohen, 2011; UNESCO, 2016a). The World Heritage Fund
also has suffered more extensive budget cuts because the United
States ceased contributing to UNESCO in 2013; as of 2016, the total
DOI: 10.1002/pa.1655
J Public Affairs. 2018;18:e1655.
Copyright © 2017 John Wiley & Sons, 1of7

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