Between you and me, I have never forgiven Napoleon’s soldiers for the destruction they did in Egypt to the Sphinx’s noses!  Robin  Tauck, owner of Tauck Tours (a tour company who as been in business a long and successful time) recently reported on attending the 33rd annual World Heritage Center.

Many of us within the travel industry overlook the unheralded work of this UNESCO activity.  Often, we’re unaware as we  visit one or more of the 890 diverse sites in 148 countries that these sites are under international protection.

Travelling the world, I’ve watched native dances from Spain throughout Africa, Egypt and Canada, never realizing that “Intangible Cultural Heritage” (traditional dance and linguistics) is part of the program.  Sites are submitted as nominations each year (47 this year).  In the first 10 years hundreds of sites and 34 new countries joined the World Heritage Sites Incentive.

Mankind often appears to be in such a relentless race to update and modernize rather than preserve our past.  I read of a man who tore down one of the Mayan pyramids to build a hotel with the building material!

The World Heritage Committee in Paris leads the assessment process along with deligations from 21 of the 187 member nations participating on a rotating basis.

Under the “endangered list” are the Galapagos Islands.  Many cruise companies want to dock there and the fishing industry has caused concern.  Fortunately, this has been stabilized for the time being.  The Belize Barrier Reef (the “Blue Hole” of Captain Costeau where I foolishly decided not to dive as the depth is unknown) is endangered due to mangrove cutting and land development (in both cases).

Within the next 3-5 years we’ll continue to be faced with climage changes and the impact on natural sites and biospheres (top of the list).  The World Tourism Organization (WTO) is on board raising tourism awareness worldwide. 

Somehow, words from the poem “In Flanders Field” by Lt. Col. John McCrae, MD of the Canadian army whom my grandmother knew, echoed:  “Take up our quarrel with the foe – To you from failing hands we throw – The torch; be yours to hold it high!”  It is up to us to help in preserving the precious gifts of the past which we have inherited.