The United Nations Foundation and Expedia, Inc., one of the world's leading travel services companies, today announced the launch of the World Heritage Alliance, an innovative joint initiative to promote sustainable tourism and awareness of World Heritage sites and communities around the world.
"With the leadership of Expedia and its travel industry partners, we can work together with the UN and local communities to make a lasting impact on World Heritage," UN Foundation President Timothy E. Wirth said. "Since net proceeds of trips booked through the Expedia websites will be reinvested into World Heritage, customers also have the opportunity to make a difference in the communities they visit."
There are currently 812 designated World Heritage sites that span 137 countries and offer an extraordinary range of travel experiences. These sites have been internationally recognized for their outstanding value and are protected by the 1972 World Heritage Convention, signed by 180 countries and administered by the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).
The UN Foundation was created in 1998 with businessman and philanthropist Ted Turner's historic $1 billion gift to support UN causes to promote a more peaceful, prosperous, and just world through the support of the UN. Through grant-making and building new and innovative public-private partnerships, it acts to meet the most pressing health, humanitarian, socioeconomic, and environmental challenges of the 21st century.
Together, Expedia and the UN Foundation want to engage the international travel industry to join the World Heritage Alliance. Broad industry participation is vital because new partners bring expertise, financial resources and other assets that can further the program's goals.
World Heritage sites include many of the most iconic travel spots on the planet, such as the Great Barrier Reef in Australia; the Egyptian Pyramids; the Taj Mahal in India; England's Stonehenge; the Galapagos Islands in Ecuador; and 20 sites in the United States, including Yellowstone and the Statue of Liberty.
But the list also encompasses scores of lesser-known places of singular importance, including Garamba National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo; the Buddhist Borobudur Temple Compounds in Central Java, Indonesia; the archaeologically rich Orkhon Valley in Mongolia; and the sub-Antarctic islands of New Zealand, home to more than 125 separate species of birds.
Expedia is already running trips to 11 sites: Pueblo de Taos, New Mexico; Central City in Prague, Czech Republic; Taj Mahal and sites near New Delhi, India; Volcanoes National Park in Hawaii; Yosemite National Park by Fresno/Modesto, California; Great Pyramids and Nubian Monuments in Egypt; Chichen-Itza and Uxmal, near Merida, Mexico; Fortified town of Campeche, near Merida, Mexico; Angkor Wat in Cambodia and other Buddhist temples throughout Cambodia, Laos, Thailand and Vietnam; Machu Picchu, City of Cuzco and Historic Centre of Lima, Peru; and Serengeti and Ngorongoro Crater, Tanzania.