World Heritage Icon Value
Contribution of World Heritage Branding to Nature Tourism
Ralf Buckley, Director, International Centre for Ecotourism Research, Faculty of Environmental Sciences, Griffith University, Queensland
Australian Heritage Commission
ISBN 0 301 215 201
About the publication World Heritage Icon Value
World Heritage and other international listing tells tourists that a site exists and is worth visiting. In the nature and cultural tourism market it is the top brand, a guarantee of superior quality. It is also a collectable set: it gives a certain social cachet to visit additional World Heritage sites. Tour companies and tourist accommodation with access to World Heritage areas commonly advertise that fact in their marketing material; and tourism developers and entrepreneurs preferentially pursue opportunities in and around World Heritage areas. World Heritage designation may therefore increase the number of tourists who know about a site, the number who want to visit it and the amount each will pay to do so. The same applies, to a somewhat lesser degree, to equivalent national and regional listings.
Here we attempt to quantify such values for Australian sites, by comparing tourist numbers and expenditure at sites before and after they were designated as World Heritage, and at similar sites with and without World Heritage status. World Heritage designation, however, is granted only to sites of high natural and cultural value, and these sites may well attract and support tourism irrespective of heritage listing. The critical issue, therefore, is to distinguish the marginal economic contribution of World Heritage listing, additional to the level of tourism activity which would occur without listing.