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CHP X UNESCO: ‘Good Tourism’ and Cultural Heritage Preservation from the Grassroots in China

On 14 October 2017, Beijing Cultural Heritage Protection Center (CHP) and UNESCO jointly held a forum on ‘Good Tourism’ and Heritage Preservation from the Grassroots in China at Temple 东景缘, Beijing. Representatives from UNESCO, Chinese Academy of Cultural Heritage, Beijing Guowenyan Cultural Heritage Conservation Center Co. Ltd, and CHP gave speeches, sharing practices and outlooks for cultural heritage and ‘good tourism’.


Cultural heritage preservation is facing great opportunities and challenges from the development of China’s tourism industry. Issues to consider include how best to use the power of civilians and protect cultural heritage beyond government resolutions through individual actions. In the opening speech, representative from UNESCO Beijing Office, Marielza Oliveira spoke on the new concept of ‘good tourism’ contained within ‘ecological tourism’ and ‘green tourism’ ‘low-carbon tourism’. UNESCO advocates ‘good tourism—effectively promoting development of heritage protection’, based on principles of inclusion and diversity.

According to World Tourism Organisation data, cultural tourism has an important place in tourism development. The list of UNESCO World Heritage sites has benefitted economic development, providing employment, improving people’s livelihoods and promoting local sustainable development. However, if managed improperly, cultural tourism can lead to negative consequences that cannot be brushed easily aside. The principles behind ‘good tourism’ are in line with many UN sustainable development goals. Ms Oliveira believes that ‘good tourism’ can be used to protect cultural heritage effectively, so that they can progress hand in hand.


Government policy and guidance cannot be ignored, says Ms Oliveira, yet local public participation should be strengthened, guaranteeing cultural and economic development. Particularly in China, ‘good tourism’ which pursues good thoughts matched with actions, aligns with the Chinese thought that ‘Knowledge and action are one’ as well as the pursuit of harmony. The goal of ‘good tourism’ is to bring tourists, policymakers, tourism operators, managers and local communities together in the joint promotion of tourism to the benefit of all parties. With so many gathered at this forum, hopefully more voices on ‘good tourism’ and cultural heritage will be heard.


A full house, keen listeners

UNESCO Programme Specialist for Culture Himalchuli Gurung, shared the results from 2011 ‘good tourism’. Taking ‘UNESCO and sustainable tourism: a project to which UNESCO is committed’ as her theme, she clarified the relationship between ‘good tourism’ and sustainable tourism. While the essence of both concepts is the same, ‘good tourism’ is the practice of sustainable tourism in China, which places respecting local residents and tourists, cultural heritage and the local environment at its core.


Ms Gurung introduced UNESCO’s many sustainable tourism practices. In planning cultural heritage, UNESCO takes the 3C strategy of: community, communication, and conservation. Right at the start of planning, local community residents should be positively involved in protection of cultural heritage. As an intergovernmental organisation, UNESCO has four main tasks: promoting policies, providing guidance, building capacity and pilot tourism. She introduced the work UNESCO had organised within the ‘Silk Road’ initiative and the UNESCO Asia-Pacific Awards for Cultural Heritage Conservation Programme, emphasising the power of people participating, and promoting the significance of communication and cooperation between the public and private realms.  Particularly as Temple Hotel, provider of the venue and the forum’s sponsor, previously won an award for cultural heritage protection, many in the audience were moved by personally being in this setting.


Researcher Zhang Yimeng from China Cultural Heritage Research Centre Protecting the Great Wall ‘World Heritage Protection and Management of Great Wall tourism’. Westerners began visiting the Great Wall from the 19th century onwards. Its first restoration followed the founding of the People’s Republic of China in 1952. A survey of Great Wall resources found that protection of the Wall was far from satisfactory. Out of 20,000 km of the Great Wall, only 10 percent was protected well. For one third of the wall, traces on the ground are now indiscernible. People are not only unfamiliar with the Great Wall, but also with existing regulations and laws on its protection. Conflicts and contradictions between protecting the Great Wall and developing tourism have naturally emerged. As a symbol of China, it is popular with both local and foreign tourists. The Badaling section of the Great Wall alone received 8 million visitors in 2016. While the precipitous Jiankou section of the Great Wall has yet to open, this does not deter tourists, endangering both the Wall and tourists themselves. One foot of the Great Wall is covered in graffiti and bad travel manners are seen everywhere. Mr Zhang proposes abiding by the law, starting with tourists themselves. Tourists should check their own behaviour to better protect the Wall, which has stood in China for thousands of years.


Director Zou Yiqing of Beijing’s Wen Yan Cultural Heritage Protection Centre Co Ltd, spoke on the Jingmai tea plantation, new to many in the audience. Research was carried out on 17662.41 hectares of the Pu’er Jingmai plantation is based in Yunnan’s Lancang Country in the Hui Township. The plantation is rich with ethnic minorities, natural cultural materials and non-material heritage resources including ancient tea trees, traditional villages and houses, handicrafts and social customs. To better protect and develop natural cultural heritage there, Zou led a team to the village, who began to build close relationships with local residents, including villagers, headsmen, interviewing cadres, communicating with and training construction workers, management departments and village cadres, trying to balance the interests of all parties. On this foundation, they made the village not only a heritage site but also more importantly, a home for villagers, conducting surveys of fields, understanding local traditions, and inspecting the Mang Hong Ethnic Culture School. To address villagers’ needs, they supported developing the tea industry, and villagers opening hostels to push sustainable development in the village.

Last to share was Hu Xinyu, director of Beijing’s Cultural Heritage Protection Center (CHP) who took listeners on a ‘stroll in old Beijing’, a city familiar with the audience. In his view, ‘strolling’, shared bikes and public transport are the best ways to travel through old Beijing. In the past, old Beijing was composed of hutongs (alleyways). In the early days of the founding of the People’s Republic of China, there were 3073 hutongs. According to statistics in 2005, this dropped to 1353, and more than 200 disappeared this year.

What is today’s old Beijing? To better understand its status of protection, in 2016 CHP began their “Liuwar project”. CHP invited more than 160 volunteers to participate in social research, collecting together the conditions of hutongs and their protection status. The project’s aim was to increase public awareness of old Beijing and hutongs, and show that strolling around is best for Beijing hutongs. The survey of old Beijing and the “Liuwar” database is expected to be completed later this year. One research achievement, the “Hutong Handbook” has already been published.

Many small and beautiful projects can be seen not only in CHP, but also Beijing Design Week which just ended, and in the Shijia Hutong Museum. ‘Bigger and better’ does not necessarily have to be Beijing’s development goal. And who can change that? Starting small, we personally can make small contributions. Collected together, these can become a huge trend that can help us see old Beijing.


Beijing’s CHP Mr Hu Xinyu takes us on a ‘stroll’ in old Beijing

At the forum, Beijing’s CHP puts forward ‘good tourism’ rules, from the perspective of cultural heritage protection. CHP hopes the public can be self-aware and follow these rules, show good travel manners, enjoy travelling and at the same time, better protect cultural heritage, and promote the sustainable development of heritage:

1. Protect cultural relics and historical sites

2. Use public transport

3. Choose local accommodation, guides or travel itineraries with a social mission

4. Obtain the agreement of residents before photographing or filming their residences


The event ended with a group photo and received souvenirs prepared by CHP

Translation by Lavender Au

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