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Sites like St Peter’s Basilica in Rome or Angkor in Cambodia are likely on every travellers’ bucket list. The problem is, they’re also ending up on lists of threatened sites — endangered by the sheer number of people who visit them.
“Most prominent sites in the world share this issue,” said Bonnie Burnham, president of the New York-based World Monuments Fund, which issues a biennial list of threatened cultural heritage sites around the world. Some inclusions on the 2012 World Monuments Watch list have been damaged by natural disasters or neglect, such as heritage sites in eastern Japan, Gothic Revival buildings in New Zealand and the oldest cemetery in Athens, Greece. But several are hurt by poorly managed tourism. “It really is about not having any kind of system for controlling the quantity of groups that go to the same place at the same time,” Burnham explained.