UNESCO and a lasting heritage, a heritage for everyone

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Institutional Communication Service

10 June 2024

In keeping with what has been customary for the past eight years, last weekend - the second in June - the Swiss UNESCO World Heritage sites opened their doors for a day of activities dedicated to them. The event, promoted by World Heritage Experience, provided an excellent opportunity to talk once again about a natural and historical heritage that is relatively safe today, but will need to be recognised in the future if it is to continue to be protected.

Discussing the topic as part of the SEIDISERA radio programme on 8 June 2024 was RSI journalist Laura Dick, who interviewed Lorenzo Cantoni, head of the UNESCO chair in ICT to develop and promote sustainable tourism at World Heritage Sites, for the occasion. The first issue raised during the interview was the curious but widespread tendency on the part of the Swiss to learn more about their foreign heritage, rather than their national heritage. A recent survey also confirmed this. "This happens quite often in tourism - Cantoni explained -, Sometimes it is easier for us to discover faraway places. In the Swiss interior, Monte San Giorgio or the Ticino beech forests tend to be less well known than the Bellinzona Fortress. However, this does not mean that there is a lack of interest".

The goal of UNESCO heritage, however, is not to attract more visitors, but to provide a memorable experience. Also through new means. USI, in collaboration with the national association of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Switzerland, has been focusing on the subject. "We are in discussion with them, exploring for example the possibility of so-called 'gamification'. That is, proposing Swiss heritage through recreational methods similar to digital games, so that people can approach it differently. That increases the chances of remembering what one has visited, because it is our right to inherit it".

The fact that more and more properties receive the UNESCO label, the USI professor concludes, does not - as a reflection - diminish their value. "The 1972 Convention Concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage (World Heritage Convention) has had a very extensive development. Originally, it had no touristic objective, but rather one of preservation and conservation. Or, possibly, of heritage promotion. Along the way, in parallel with the development of mass tourism, this label also meant bringing to the attention of travellers places that were perhaps less well known. So no, I don't think there is a real risk of having too many of them today. It is true, however, that they are increasing, and that the logic behind the entries is changing a little, with the intention of having more of them in areas that in the past had fewer, or even none at all".

The full interview with Professor Cantoni can be accessed at the following link: https://www.rsi.ch/info/svizzera/Conoscere-il-Patrimonio-culturale-per-proteggerlo--2172256.html

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