AttractionsHelp clients tap into traveller wanderlust at these 34 World Heritage Sites; local planning tips included.

Agents, these are the UNESCO sites to book for 2022 and beyond

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The 11 Great Spa Towns of Europe are all near natural springs, and recently inscribed by UNESCO. Pictured: Bad Kissingen, Germany
The 11 Great Spa Towns of Europe are all near natural springs, and recently inscribed by UNESCO. Pictured: Bad Kissingen, Germany Photo Credit: Dominik Marx

Weddings, honeymoons and family reunions weren’t the only milestones to be delayed by the Covid-19 pandemic. The annual United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) World Heritage Committee meeting — during which committee members select the cultural and natural sites to be added to the World Heritage List — also took a hiatus in 2020.

The delay resulted in a large batch of new sites added to the UNESCO World Heritage List for 2021, which was released last July during the extended 44th session of the committee (held virtually). Of the 39 nominations evaluated (for both 2020 and 2021 combined), 29 cultural and five natural properties were chosen to join the more than 1,121 sites that were already on UNESCO’s list.

These 34 new additions, which were selected because of their “outstanding universal value and [ability to] meet at least one out of 10 selection criteria” will undoubtedly crop up on vacation itineraries and traveller bucket lists in the months to come. And no matter the client, there’s likely a new UNESCO site that pairs perfectly with their interests.

For Wellness-Seekers: The Great Spa Towns of Europe

Cumulatively representing just one new UNESCO entry, this transnational World Heritage Site spans 11 towns across seven European countries. Dubbed “The Great Spa Towns of Europe,” the cities, in alphabetical order (by country) are: Baden bei Wien, Austria; Spa, Belgium; Frantiskovy Lazne, Karlovy Vary and Marianske Lazne, the Czech Republic; Vichy, France; Bad Ems, Baden-Baden and Bad Kissingen, Germany; Montecatini Terme, Italy; and Bath, England.

According to UNESCO, each of these wellness meccas — all located around natural springs — were influential in paving the way for the rise of European spa culture between 1700 and 1930.

However, if clients choose to spend their vacations in the towns, they will find a fair number of non-spa attractions, as well.

“In the past, spa guests who took the cure for weeks or months at a time needed ‘diversions,’ and so theatres, concert halls, opera houses, art galleries and sporting venues — such as racecourses and tennis courts — are found in all of the towns,” said Paul Simons, general secretary for the Great Spa Towns of Europe. “Post-pandemic, visitors are looking for a slower, more mindful pace of life, for cultural activities that lift the spirits and for breathing space and less-crowded areas.”

Know Before You Go

For clients’ ultimate relaxation, travel advisors should book these spa destinations individually — and not necessarily strung together in one all-encompassing itinerary.

“Something to bear in mind is that visiting this particular World Heritage Site in its entirety will involve some dedication, as the towns are in seven different countries, and spread over a large geographical area,” Simons said. “We would not recommend visiting them all in one trip, as this would not be at all relaxing, and we want visitors to the Great Spa towns of Europe to enjoy a restful visit.”

Sitio Roberto Burle Marx showcases several modern gardening techniques.
Sitio Roberto Burle Marx showcases several modern gardening techniques. Photo Credit: 2021 Iphan-SRBM

For Art and Design Lovers: Sitio Roberto Burle Marx, Brazil

In 1949, landscape architect and artist Roberto Burle Marx set out on a mission to develop a “living work of art” and a “landscape laboratory.” After 40 years, the finished garden features 3,500 species of tropical and subtropical plants, and, as of this year, represents the first modern tropical garden to be added to the World Heritage List. According to UNESCO, Marx’s garden represents an early version of today’s modern garden, featuring popular landscape design elements such as curved pathways, dramatic colour contrasts, the use of tropical plants, mass-planting techniques and architectural plant arrangements.

Know Before You Go

Both individual and group visitors to the garden can make reservations in advance for 90-minute walking tours of the complex, which include a tour of the home where Marx lived during the garden’s creation. The price of admission is about US$2 per person (cash only); children 5 and under can enter for free, and seniors (age 60 and above) and students receive a 50% discount.

Chankillo Archaeoastronomical Complex in Peru dates back to 250 B.C.
Chankillo Archaeoastronomical Complex in Peru dates back to 250 B.C. Photo Credit: 2021 Promperu

For Astronomers: Chankillo Archaeoastronomical Complex, Peru

Dating back to 250-200 B.C., the Chankillo Archaeoastronomical Complex in Peru’s Casma Valley once functioned as a solar calendar, and now may be the oldest astronomical observatory in the Americas.

The complex includes multiple attractions: The Fortified Temple (a hilltop complex); two building complexes (the Observatory and the Administrative Center); a series of 13 towers along a hill ridge that allows for observation of the rising and setting positions of the sun; and the Cerro Mucho Malo mountain.

Know Before You Go

Chankillo is still relatively under-the-radar for international tourists, but "the best route that exists to visit Chankillo is going through the road from Lima to Huaraz. Stopping in this area will greatly enrich the cultural experience of visitors, especially if they visit [the] Ancash [region] next, and Chavin (also a UNESCO World Heritage Site), which is very emblematic of pre-Inca culture," said Amora Carbajal, executive director of Promperu, the official tourism board for Peru.

Inscriptions at Hima Cultural Area depict what life was like some 7,000 years ago.
Inscriptions at Hima Cultural Area depict what life was like some 7,000 years ago. Photo Credit: 2021 Heritage Commission

For Historians: Hima Cultural Area, Saudi Arabia

The new UNESCO Site makes up one of the largest rock art complexes in the world, and its images and petroglyphs depict what life was like for those in the area beginning some 7,000 years ago through to the 20th century. Much of the artwork is still in prime condition, and inscriptions are written in a variety of different languages, including Greek; Arabic; the ancient Arabic languages Thamudic and Musnad; and South Arabian.

Adding to its allure? The attraction is located on the oldest-known toll station on an ancient desert caravan route, and its 3,000-year-old wells are still producing fresh water to this day.

Know Before You Go

Hima Cultural Area is the sixth UNESCO World Heritage Site for Saudi Arabia. The destination may soon be stepping into the tourism spotlight; recently, it was announced as the host for the 22nd World Travel & Tourism Council Global Summit in late 2022. Visiting this site prior to this country’s potential tourism spike may provide a quieter, less-crowded experience.

A Mangrove in Amami-Oshima Island.
A Mangrove in Amami-Oshima Island. Photo Credit: 2021 OCVB/KPVB

For Nature and Wildlife Lovers: Amami-Oshima Island, Tokunoshima Island, the Northern part of Okinawa Island and Iriomote Island, Japan

The islands are home to many native and endangered species. Within an area of some 427 million sqm are 1,819 vascular plants, 21 terrestrial mammals, 394 bird species, 21 amphibians, 36 terrestrial reptiles and 267 inland fish, including endemic species such as the Amami rabbit, the Okinawa rail and the Iriomote cat.

However, Kay Allen, communications manager for the Japan National Tourism Organization (JNTO) in Los Angeles, said it is imperative for visitors to use professional guides when travelling to the site.

“The most important thing to keep in mind is that these islands have delicate ecosystems that locals and conservationists work tirelessly to protect, so utilising professional island guides and being respectful of the natural environment is key,” Allen said.

Know Before You Go

Getting access to the islands is relatively easy for travellers via domestic flights available from Kagoshima to Amami-Oshima and Tokunoshima, Allen says. Additionally, Iriomote is accessible by ferry from nearby Ishigaki Island, which can be reached by plane from most major airports in Japan.

Muslim and Christian communities co-exist peacefully in As-Salt, Jordan.
Muslim and Christian communities co-exist peacefully in As-Salt, Jordan.

For Social Advocates: As-Salt, Jordan: The Place of Tolerance and Urban Hospitality

Over the past couple of years, tourism leaders have become increasingly vocal in their desire to push for a more socially inclusive, tolerant tourism landscape as we recover from the fallout of the Covid-19 pandemic.

And if there’s one destination we all could learn from, it’s As-Salt, a city in west-central Jordan that represents a prime example of the early wave of hospitality and cultural fusion between the East and the West.

The city is perched on three adjacent hills and features 650 historic buildings, along with a distinctive layout that intertwines residential districts with public spaces. As-Salt is home to large Muslim and Christian communities, and the lack of physical segregation between these groups built the foundation for a lasting tolerance between its people, and ultimately contributed to the destination’s position as a thriving trade stop between the 1860s and 1920s.

Know Before You Go

In addition to marvelling at the architecture within the city, Banihani encourages clients to visit the As-Salt Archaeological Museum within the city’s commercial centre, as well as the city’s folklore museum. He also suggests touring the Religious Harmony Trail (which showcases the mosques and churches existing in inter-religious harmony within one neighbourhood) and Al-Hammam Street, a bustling pedestrian corridor that meanders through the hillside.

Clients can stroll the world-famous Promenade des Anglais in Nice.
Clients can stroll the world-famous Promenade des Anglais in Nice. Photo Credit: 2021 Otm Hugues Lagarde

For Snowbirds: Nice, France

Paris has long been a common bucket-list destination for US travellers to France, but the city of Nice, the capital of France’s Cote d’Azur, was a favourite winter destination of the British and Russian aristocracies.

Dubbed a “Winter Resort Town of the Riviera,” Nice is located on the Mediterranean Sea at the foot of the Alps, near France’s border with Italy. Because of its pleasing climate and coastal location, the town has long been a haven for sun-seekers looking for respite during the colder months.

If clients do decide to visit in winter, Anne-Laure Tuncer, USA director of Atout France, France Tourism Development Agency has several suggestions.

She recommends strolling the world-renowned Promenade des Anglais; visiting the city’s Old Town; skiing in the lower Alps (just a two-hour drive away); or heading to the Roman ruins (in Nice’s Cimiez neighbourhood). Wintertime visitors should also note that Nice’s famous carnival takes place next month from 11-27 February, 2022.

Know Before You Go

The Nice Cote d’Azur Convention & Visitors Bureau has a section of its website exclusively for travel advisors. There, agents will find sections on booking groups to the destination, working with tour operators, a multimedia library with royalty-free marketing assets and more.

Consider gifting clients a French Riviera Pass, which is available for 24-, 48- and 72-hour visits to the destination and offers visitors access to many of the city’s sites and museums, along with discounted rates in shops, restaurants and artists’ studios. According to Tuncer, Delta Air Lines, United Airlines and the business class-only French boutique airline La Compagnie will resume seasonal nonstop flights to Nice from New York (John F. Kennedy International Airport for Delta, and Newark Liberty International Airport for La Compagnie and United Airlines) beginning Q2 this year.

Source: TravelAge West

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