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Official websites of WHS

Over the past 2 weeks I have done a hygiene / maintenance check on all 1092 pages of individual WHS on this website. Part of it was to verify whether a link to an official website was functioning, or whether we had one at all. The whole exercise brought me at a myriad of websites more or less geared to the specific WHS.

One of the excellent National Park Services websites

What’s a good official website?

I think these are the bare minimum requirements. It should show:

  • Opening hours (including updates on closure for renovations etc)
  • Entrance fees
  • Location with physical address

We link to the official websites especially for this kind of information: it would be impossible to keep track of changing opening hours for all 1092 WHS for example. The ‘owner’ of a WHS is in the best position to do that. If an official website does just that and only that, it’s already fine by me. Additional information such as background stories and maps are a bonus however.

Which websites are allowed?

Ideally the official website is maintained by the body that owns the WHS. The closer to the source it is, the better the chance that it is accurate. Other options are the national (or regional) tourist boards or government bodies responsible for cultural heritage or nature conservation. Sometimes a private or community initiative website can be done so well that it also qualifies. I try to avoid websites maintained by tour operators in this category. And those of individuals that plaster their homepage with commercial banners.

Official Taj Mahal website has do's and don'ts

What is the overall quality of the official websites?

Having looked at hundreds of potential and actual official websites, the conclusion is that the majority of the WHS do have pitiful ‘official’ websites. Considering that tourism potential is a main driver in nominating a site, why not create a simple website for it with just the 3 basic items of opening hours, entrance fees and location?

The positives

There are good examples as well of course. Every time I clicked on a site of the USA, I knew I could rely on the webpages of the National Park Service. They are as functional as they get, with no frills but including all the essentials including up-to-date weather warning. Another good bet are websites of cathedrals – they must be there to attract worshippers, but I nearly always found them very useful for general visitors as well.

The Chinese websites have improved a lot since I first placed the official weblinks. I’ve replaced several older ones with fully modern and bilingual official websites. The Peking Man Site at Zhokoudian’s website for example is exemplary. And I also like the neat url’s used for the Chinese WHS: such as for Zhokoudian , for Yin Xu and for Fanjingshan. Sites in the UK, Scandinavia and Germany generally are also presented well.

The negatives

Even after searching in Spanish, few good official websites of Latin American WHS have come up. The one covering Machu Picchu is notoriously terrible. Another low point are the Indian WHS. They are mostly maintained by the Archaeological Survey of India, which is an organization focused on administration instead of service to visitors. Fortunately the Taj Mahal has its own website (the only dedicated one I could find among the Indian cultural WHS). It does well on the practical info, but the design hasn’t come up to the 21st century and it holds flowery descriptions such as “If one has a heart that beats and that beat throbs to seek, the purity of love in galore! Surely one deserves a visit to ‘The Taj’, as much as ‘The Taj’ deserves your visit once, and more!”

Website for Peking Man

Keep those suggestions for official websites coming

The result of my full check is that (a) all official and related weblinks on this website are working again, and (b) there’s now a list available of all sites without an official link – suggestions for such links are welcome via the Forum post!

Els - 11 August 2018

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