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.
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
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. 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. 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. 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
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. Photo Credit: 2021 OCVB/KPVB
For Nature and Wildlife Lovers: Amami-Oshima Island,
Tokunoshima Island, the Northern part of Okinawa Island and Iriomote
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.
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
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. 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
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
If clients do decide to visit in winter, Anne-Laure Tuncer, USA
director of Atout France, France Tourism Development Agency has several
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
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