UNESCO sites as role models

In the EU South Baltic Project DUNC, a unique partnership of UNESCO sites and affliated organisations has been working together for the sustainable development of our region's UNESCO sites. As lead organisation of the DUNC project, Sarah Kristoffersen and Ulrika Fransson from the Municipality of Karlskrona talk about the new Baltic Sea Heritage platform and their hopes for continued cooperation.

EUCC-D: What is the outstanding feature of UNESCO heritage sites in the South Baltic Sea area?

People living along the Baltic shores have a long history of both cooperation and hostility. Colonialism and trading have shaped the lives of ordinary people here, creating important commercial cities, ports and vibrant towns. At the same time, beautiful and sometimes dramatic landscapes have been shaped by the forces of nature. It is precisely because of these reasons, that millions of people come to the region each year and tourism is one of the Baltic Sea region's fastest-growing economic sectors. Our coastal UNESCO sites including World Heritage and biosphere reserves, represent some of the most unique and precious locations in the world, and that is not an exaggeration, they are some of the region’s most popular destinations. The UNESCO inscription attracts millions of tourists year after year. On one side, the recognition of having Outstanding Universal value is a powerful asset and on the other side, along with being shortlisted as a UNESCO site comes responsibilities. Site managers must reconcile economic value and protection of the very essence of what makes it valuable – it’s a balancing act and something that cannot be achieved within the short space of a few years but which requires long-term commitment and planning.

The project DUNC was recently finished but you created, as the main output, the BALTIC HERITAGE IDEAS platform – which objectives are involved?

The platform, www.balticheritageideas.eu , is crucial for the continuation of the concept agreed upon by project partners. It clusters criteria and strategies on sustainable tourism and product development and provides stakeholder contact information so that the UNESCO network, which has been established, can live on long after the project has ended. The concept and network presented on the platform are open for more partners to join after the project lifetime.

Who is the target group and who is already part of the platform?

The main target groups are the UNESCO sites of the South Baltic Sea Region and their affiliated organisations. This includes the administrative offices of World Heritage sites and Biosphere Reserves, plus ambassadors and entrepreneurs that work directly and indirectly with the sites. We hope that the network develops further and attracts more organisations over the coming years. At present, the network consists of the DUNC project consortium from five different Baltic Sea countries, including Karlskrona Municipality and Mörbylånga Municipality from Sweden; Curonian Spit National Park administration and EUCC Baltic Office from Lithuania; and EUCC – The Coastal Union Germany, Tourist Board Stralsund and Tourist Board Wismar from Germany. It is also supported by the DUNC associated project partners. The complete list of network members can be found at: Baltic Heritage Ideas |About Baltic Heritage Ideas

The platform focuses on UNESCO sites around the South Baltic Sea Region, but of course, the information is relevant to a wider geographical audience globally.

What does sustainable tourism of the Baltic Sea Region look like in the future?

Tourism is one of the Baltic Sea Region's fastest-growing economic sectors which contributes greatly to economic growth and job opportunities in the region, particularly in more rural areas. However, we know it is also a major contributor to negative environmental impact, degradation of the visited locations and problematic seasonal visitor patterns.

During the DUNC project, the UNs Sustainable Development Goals and the UNESCO Sustainable Tourism guidelines have been central to our work. We focused on developing concepts for ambassadorship, entrepreneurship and product development that address some of the issues at the heart of sustainable tourism.  DUNC worked on building inclusive communities, providing "future-friendly" economic growth and safeguarding heritage assets for future generations. Our partner organisations share a common vision for the future which sees the South Baltic Region UNESCO sites as role models for sustainable tourism development. To achieve this though, we must continue to work together on the common challenges, we need to continue to raise awareness about responsible behaviour and also work alongside businesses to create quality activities that help manage tourist flows better. Even over a short period of time, the DUNC UNESCO sites witnessed the positive effects that cooperation can bring, not only transnationally but also on a local level by engaging local communities. Obviously, the involvement and commitment of the people, organisations, and authorities working in and for a UNESCO site are necessary preconditions for long-term sustainable tourism development. What we have learnt in DUNC is that everyone has the potential to be an ambassador and play a role.


Sarah Kristoffersen and Ulrika Fransson
DUNC Project Managers, Municipality of Karlskrona, Sweden