World Tourism Day: UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the USA

If you haven’t visited a World Heritage Site yet, this World Tourism Day we want to give you some tips on how to contribute to their preservation and enjoy these landmarks of great social and cultural value around the world.

Protected under the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Convention Concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage, the sites hold cultural, historical, and scientific value, all of which represents the rich history of our planet.

While tourism is a great way to learn about these sites, and it also helps to generate jobs and ultimately benefits the economy of the locations, if its not done properly it can have detrimental consequences mainly driven by development and by visitors themselves who some times leave their trash behind, which can lead to debris flowing into the water sources, impacting the ecosystems on all levels. Tourists spread oftentimes, diseases and invasive species, which also harm the ecosystem. Fires have severely damaged parks due to discarded cigarette butts and campfires being left unattended and.  They have been seen as the cause for 90% of the wildfires started in the U.S.

Additionally, climate change plays a role on it with droughts, floods, severe hurricanes, and rising sea levels. A study from the Environmental Research Letters about the Disproportionate Magnitude of Climate Change in United States National Parks highlights that the average temperatures in national parks have increased by a little over 1 degree Celsius from 1895 to 2018, twice the rate as the rest of the nation and yearly rainfall totals decreased 12% of national parkland compared to 3% of land in the U.S.

If you plan to travel this fall, consider the following:

  • Bring your own reusable water bottle and shopping bag. Remember that one plastic bottle/bag takes hundreds of years to decompose and it may end up in landfills.
  • Take public transportation or walk to get around. It will help minimize your environmental impact by reducing your emissions footprint, but you can also get to meet locals.
  • Flight direct since the more stops a plane makes your carbon footprint will multiply.
  • Stay at eco-friendly hotels, which nowadays are available worldwide
  • Take care of your trash including used batteries, electronics, etc.
  • Stick to designated paths when visiting national parks since is vital for conservation measures because it helps keep visitors from possibly damaging fragile ecosystems. 

In the U.S. we are fortunate to have 24 of these beautiful and historical places. Some of my favorites include The Grand Canyon National Park, Yosemite National Park, and Yellowstone National Park, but there are 21 more out there that you can discover, always keeping in mind the impact of your interactions with them.

Want to know more about the World Heritage Sites? Check out the list right here!

Key Links:
http://wtd.unwto.org/en/content/about-world-tourism-day
http://wtd.unwto.org/content/world-tourism-day-2019

Jessica Calderon