Every international recognition of a single destination brings its amount of local consequences. On one hand, it highlights and promotes the local destination in the global markets and gives new opportunities for local development. On the other hand, standardization of the heritage and local processes, contamination and increase of social inegalities due to the fast and uncontrolled development are at least as frequent as its positive effects. The « World Heritage » denomination by the UNESCO (United Nations for Education, Science and Culture Organization) is one of these international recognitions. My ambition to be a « responsible traveler » was put to a severe test when it was about visiting some of the World heritage sites, of which many are now totally committed to the mass tourism. In another top list posting, I gave my best experiences of World heritages. Here are my worst ones! Let think about that you may also have a bad experience there.
Among the 60 World Heritage sites recognized by the UNESCO and visited during the last 4 years of my journey by bicycle, here are my worst experiences ever, followed by my comments:
- Panama city (Panama) : standardization of the historical center, hardly accessible from other parts of the metropolis, like a museum only for tourists, very expensive…
- Peninsula Valdés (Argentina) : Access and price grid unfair and independant with the fauna presence and seasons, poor quality information about the environment, preserve of tour operators for massive seasonal tourists attendance.
- Machu Pichu (Peru) : Mass tourism, huge contanimation of the valley, preserve of tourism businesses at the expense of local communities, queueing when visiting the site, incapacity of spiritual or emotional experience, degraded site with urgent need of restoration and public authorities consideration beyond its economic importance.
- São Luis (Brazil) : Degradation of Azuleijos in most of the streets and buildings with graffitis, insecurity of some neighbourhoods, dirtiness of sidewalks.
- Iguazu (Argentina & Brazil) : Concentration of all public visits on 5% of the UNESCO site = the waterfalls, huge frequentation, queueing and no time to breathe (especially on the Brazilian side where options to escape the « current » of tourists are rare, every good or service is commercialized and super expensive (Do the environment and local populations benefit from it???)