Traditional local industries are an integral part of the value of a World Heritage site. It is particularly so in the living World Heritage cities, where people’s occupations and livelihood reflect the history of the place. These local industries are not without challenges. The success of World Heritage tourism attracted major investors from outside, sidelining local small businesses. Many of them are slowly leaving the town, which has become too expensive for them. What would be, but, the value of a World Heritage city without original resident and traditional businesses?
In response, UNESCO, with support from the Government of Japan, has begun a pilot project to promote local creative industries at three World Heritage cities of Melaka and George Town in Malaysia and Vigan in the Philippines. Each site mapped issues and developed its strategy to promote the local creative industry for implementation between 2019 and 2021.
The project met extraordinary circumstances in the middle of its implementation. Starting in early 2020, the worldwide COVID 19 pandemic interrupted international travel and tourism activities at virtually all the World Heritage sites. With its focus on local industries, the project became even more critical, providing much-needed support to their business continuity in the face of the pandemic.
Implementing partners from the three cities met at an e-Forum on 28 May 2021 to share their experiences mentoring local SMEs (small and medium-sized enterprises) in virtual tours and digital marketing. Another UNESCO project team from Indonesia, supporting the youth entrepreneurs at the heritage sites (UNESCO-Citi Creative Youth at Indonesian Heritage Sites), joined the debate.
While the project was completed on 31 May 2021, the UNESCO’s implementing partners promised to continue supporting the local SMEs. They also agreed to mentor each other in different techniques of community capacity-building and digital marketing.
As the entire world is seeking solutions to the ongoing pandemic, their experience offers a precious guideline for action in the living World Heritage cities. UNESCO wishes to thank these brave partners, keeping their presence on the ground.
YouTube link of the eForum: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U9W1yZCMDN8