UNESCO World Heritage - Worth It?

Psar Nat (Nat Market), a central feature of Battambang life, built by the French in the 1960s.

Battambang is in the process of applying for UNESCO World Heritage status. The city has a lot to offer to qualify it.

The center of town is full of 1930s and 1960s French Colonial architecture that's fairly well preserved, temples around town display different styles reminiscent of each era in Battambang's history - Thai occupation, Cambodian and French colonial.

Battambang also still has many traditional Khmer houses but these are slowly being replaced with concrete building as they have been in other parts of the country.  If given world heritage status, UNESCO would help Battambang work to protect these unique features along with other intangible cultural assets in the city (ways of living, music, dance etc). 

World Heritage status would help to preserve some amazing aspects of Battambang but it also comes with an increase in tourism. This will bring more tourism dollars to the local community and could be a great boon but only if properly carried out.

As a company that practices responsible tourism, we know that tourism can have positive impacts on local communities but these communities need to be involved in how tourism progresses in their area.

If Battambang receives world heritage status, we hope the community will be given agency over the developments that will take place to ensure that the increase in tourism supports local communities rather than potentially causing more harm than good.

The Guardian did an interesting profile of Georgetown in Malaysia and the communities thoughts on receiving World Heritage status. As they say, it can be a "double-edged sword."

Battambang has the opportunity to work with this knowledge and utilize responsible tourism practices like those we use here at Soksabike to minimize the negative effects that can come with increased tourism.

Have you visited a World Heritage destination? Share your experience with us in the comments below!