In tourism, objects with cultural significance are usually among key tourism attractions, including the ones listed under the World Heritage List. Being designated as a World Heritage Site (WHS) for monuments, areas, or natural landscapes, is a privilege because the international visibility of the site as a tourism attraction will likely increase through the promotional and informational activities conducted by the government, tourism industry players and the World Heritage Committee (Drost 1996; Li, Wu and Cai 2008). Timothy and Nyaupane (2009) pointed out that visits to cultural and historical resources have become one of the largest and fastest growing sectors of the tourism industry.
UNESCO adopted the Convention Concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage in 1972. The purpose of the Convention is to ensure the identification, protection, conservation, presentation and transmission to future generations of cultural and natural heritage of outstanding universal value2. The Convention states that the World Heritage Committee (WHC) should coordinate the process of designating the sites through a system known as inscription, which includes an evaluation of the resources by experts against a set of known criteria. The aim of the inscription is to encourage conservation of the resources within designated sites and surrounding buffer zones on a local level and also to foster a sense of collective global responsibility via international cooperation, exchange and support generations, the concept of sustainability needs to be applied in the management of the World Heritage Site. The concept of sustainability is based on the concept of sustainable development that was put forward in 1987 via the work of the United Nations World Commission on Environment and Development (WCED), as development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. The Commission’s report Our Common Future introduced the idea of sustainability as a means of integrating economic and ecological concerns in long-term development strategies.
While the concept of sustainability that was first presented in the WCED’s report emphasized ecological concerns, the idea of sustainability had been extended to the arena of cultural development through the report of the World Commission on Culture and
Development (WCCD), Our Creative Diversity. The report promoted the long-term needs of
future generations for access to cultural resources (Throsby 2003), hence the notion of cultural sustainability had emerged. Throsby (2003) argued that although the Brundtland definition of sustainable development provides an encapsulation of the essential concept, it is incomplete as a basis for considering the relationship between sustainability and culture. He suggested six principles in which sustainable management of cultural resources might be assessed: (1) material and non-material well-being; (2) intergenerational equity; (3) intragenerational equity; (4) maintenance of diversity; (5) precautionary principle; and (6) maintenance of cultural systems and recognition of interdependence (Throsby 2003 : 184 - 186). The first five principles were derived from the concept of natural capital and the notion that natural resources should be managed in a way that provides for the needs of the present generation without compromising the capacity of future generations to meet their own needs, as in the Brundtland Report. The principle of material and non-material well-being implies that the flow of cultural goods and services provides both material benefits in the form of direct utility and non-material benefits in the form of non-market cultural goods whose value can be estimated in economic and cultural terms. Intergenerational equity refers to fairness in the distribution of welfare, utility or resources between generations, which relates directly to preservation and wise utilization of the resources. On the other hand, intragenerational equity refers to fairness in access to cultural resources and to the benefit flowing from them, viewed across social classes and income groups. Maintenance of diversity means the diversity of ideas, beliefs, traditions and values that will lead to the creation of more varied cultural goods, such as artistic works. The principle of precautionary principle states that decisions that may lead to irreversible change should be approached with extreme caution.
The sixth principle, maintenance of cultural systems and recognition of interdependence implies that no part of any system exists independently of other parts. Throsby (2003) proposed that this final principle draws together the entire concept of cultural sustainability since failure in sustaining cultural values that provide people with a sense of identity will place cultural systems in danger.