Is the World Heritage label used as a promotional argument for sustainable tourism?

Pascale Marcotte (Department of Recreational, Cultural and Tourism Studies, Université du Québec à Trois‐Rivières, Trois‐Rivières, Canada)
Laurent Bourdeau (Department of Geography, Université Laval, Québec City, Canada)

Journal of Cultural Heritage Management and Sustainable Development

ISSN: 2044-1266

Publication date: 25 May 2012



The purpose of this paper is to find out if Destination Marketing Organizations (DMOs), in charge of promoting World Heritage Sites (WHS), use the World Heritage label in their electronic promotional tools, and if so, do promotional arguments include considerations linked to sustainable development.


A quantitative and qualitative study was conducted of web site content created by local, regional and national DMOs representing 120 organizations of World Heritage Cities member cities.


Results show that Western European cities are the primary users of the World Heritage label in their promotional material. Cities that obtained their label less than ten years ago use it more often for promoting tourism. Concurrently a significant theme associated with WHS categorisation is the presentation of a must‐see “tourism product”. Conversely the advertising contains little information about the protection of the site or sustainable development actions undertaken since the labelling.

Practical implications

Mostly a DMO communicates with tourists and visitors. It would be in the interest of WHS managers who work in partnership with these DMOs to convey why the site was labelled. Further, they need to demonstrate that obtaining the World Heritage status implies implementing sustainable development objectives. Finally, a better understanding of the economic, cultural, social and environmental issues associated with the label would help tourists appreciate their visit more.


The paper is the first insightful study of the World Heritage label usage as both a promotional argument and means of enhancing sustainable tourism practices.



Marcotte, P. and Bourdeau, L. (2012), "Is the World Heritage label used as a promotional argument for sustainable tourism?", Journal of Cultural Heritage Management and Sustainable Development, Vol. 2 No. 1, pp. 80-91.

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