World Heritage and Tourism: the Case of Curacao How to combine local and global interests

Objectives: This paper examines the relationship between World Heritage and Tourism on Curacao focusing on the interests involved on a local and global level.

Methodology: A case study has been conducted on the island of Curacao using a qualitative method through in- depth interviews and observations.

Findings: General tourism in the Caribbean area grows every day, but heritage tourism is still under developed. The four historical districts of the capital of Curacao - Willemstad - were listed on the UNESCO World Heritage list in 1997, became a tourist attraction. It started to suffer of commercialization and commodification, as many WH sites. Most of the tourism development projects have been initiated by the Curacao Tourist Board, by the government or by the private sector - such as developers and investors. Besides these three stakeholders, the local community is a major stakeholder as well. At the moment the interest of the three major stakeholders and the interest of the local community are not in sync with each other. Moreover, all the stakeholders operate on their own without collaboration between them.

Research limits: Future quantitative research could be carried out to quantify the economic impact of the UNESCO status on Curacao covering a year wide sample size - including high and low season.

Research and practical implications: It is of great importance that all of the stakeholders work together to create the best sustainable tourism plan. But either the lack of political power or financial assets will slow this process down. Moreover, all the stakeholders operate on their own without any collaboration between them.

Originality of the study: There has been no - or not published yet - research into the development of the product Willemstad as a UNESCO World Heritage City. This research will try to fill this gap in the existing literature. 

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