Underwater Cultural Heritage and Sustainable Development

Underwater Cultural
Heritage and Sustainable
The UNESCO 2001 Convention on the Protection of
the Underwater Cultural Heritage (UCH)
Tourism and Culture
• Tourism and culture are intimately connected; the latter provides an
incentive for the former
• 9.5% of global GDP comes from tourism
• In developing States, tourism can account for up to 25% of GDP
• Studies show that 37% of global tourism is related to culture and
• One study has shown that for every $1 that a visitor spends at a
heritage site, they may spend up to $12 at surrounding businesses,
such as hotels, restaurants, etc.
Culture is Development
• Sustainable tourism development must include the protection
and promotion of cultural heritage
• Underwater cultural heritage represents a unique form of
cultural heritage that distinguishes those areas that promote it
from other destinations
© Larue, photographing a shipwreck.
Underwater Cultural Heritage Tourism
• Underwater cultural heritage is especially important for
coastal and island States, many of which have established
maritime and coastal tourism industries
• For example, the Vasa Museum in Stockholm brings an
estimated $300 Million each year to the city
• Museums featuring underwater cultural heritage present a
unique and original experience for tourists
© A. Ohlson\UNESCO Vasa Museum, Stockholm
Diving Tourism
• Dive trails, guided tours and protected marine areas can attract significant
numbers of tourists
• For example, from 2002-2005, the Yongala Wreck in Australia attracted nearly
8,000 divers per year
• There are an estimated 6 Million active divers in the world
• The number of active divers in increasing; The number of divers has increased by
an average of 8.5% annually since 1970; the number of divers in California grew
by nearly 13.5% annually between 2005 and 2013
• Dive tourists spend more time and money at their destinations than others
© Xploredive\UNESCO Plan of SS Yongala, Australia
Untapped Potential
• Despite the potential of underwater cultural heritage for sustainable
tourism development, many coastal and island States have not
attempted to utilize their available heritage
• A recent UNESCO study in the Maldives shows that the major focus
remains beach tourism
• States that rely heavily on tourism must diversify their offerings to
continue to grow
• Underwater heritage presents a unique opportunity to diversify
• An area not known for its culture can be shown to have a rich
cultural legacy underwater
• The pairing of land and underwater sites in cultural routes,
museums or tours can promote development and increase tourism
The Challenges
• Underwater archaeologists are needed to discover and
research sites
• Many sites are not under any legal or operational protection,
they are open to pillaging by treasure-hunters, who often
know the sites better than local law-enforcement
• Little effort has so far been made to make sites accessible
• Many sites are not accessible to tourists, due to depth,
preservation, or dangers
The Dangers of Treasure Hunting
• The temptation of recovering precious metals and other
treasures from wrecks can be great
• But, such exploitation is not sustainable
• States that allow treasure hunting have lost billions in recent
decades (loss of heritage, legal fights, administrative hassles)
• Development focused on preservation and tourism is
sustainable – Treasure hunting is not
“Florida’s policy towards its underwater antiquities has cost the
State millions… If Florida had … invested USD 10 million in two
great maritime museums back in the 1960s, instead of giving
leases to salvors, the State would be nearly half a billion dollars
richer each year…”1 (Peter Throckmorton)
UNESCO Contact:
Ulrike Guérin, UNESCO
Convention on the Protection of the Underwater Cultural Heritage (2001)
7, place de Fontenoy, 75352 Paris 07 SP France
Tel: + 33 1 45 68 44 06
Email: [email protected]
Web: www.unesco.org/en/underwater-cultural-heritage

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