Whether you choose to discover the ancient pilgrimage routes of northern Spain, explore volcanoes in South Korea, swim with the whales in Mexico, stroll along France’s finest canals or climb Mount Kilimanjaro, the choice is yours. Sit back and learn more about the wonders of our world, with a view to deepen our commitment to safeguard it for future generations.
Make no mistake: culture is not only a consuming good to be enjoyed. Today, culture is calling out for help and support. In the wake of COVID-19, culture needs us more than ever. The entire sector is suffering. Cultural tourism, which accounts for 40% of the entire tourism market, is hurting, with the number of international tourists dropping by 75% in 2020 compared to 2019. Following the closure of concert halls, theatres, bookstores and cinemas, the royalties collected by creators may have dropped by as much as 35% in 2020 — a €3.5 billion loss globally. Museums have been particularly affected by the pandemic, as 90% have closed their doors during the crisis and, according to the International Council of Museums (ICOM), more than 10% may never reopen. Apart from the airline industry, culture is likely one of the sectors most affected by COVID-19. In Europe alone, the cultural sector saw a 31% loss in revenues in 2020. And behind these figures, there are millions of disrupted lives and lost incomes, with many cultural professionals left to fend for themselves. These threats come in addition to the many other threats to World Heritage sites, from climate change to conflicts and neglect. Our world is magnificent, but it is also fragile.
This is an opportunity to remember that culture never flourishes in a vacuum: it calls for creativity, support and caring. It calls for knowledge, passion and funding as well. Now is our chance to invent a new, more sustainable tourism, respectful of World Heritage sites, the environment and local populations. Now is the time to invent new ways to access culture, everywhere, anytime, in a way that still respects the rights of the artists and professionals who spend their lives giving shape to their ideas.