Blog WHS website

Aspiring TWHS

We have had a Forum topic called ‘Aspiring to be on the Tentative List’ already since 2008. It is filled with mentions of places around the world that have publicly announced to aspire to World Heritage status, but are not on their country’s Tentative List yet. Honestly, I never took those very seriously, as they were often proposed by locals after a few drinks without any further thought or follow-up.

But I feel something in the ‘Road to WHS’ has fundamentally changed over the past few years. Countries seem to keep their cards close to their chest longer than before. For a WH traveller, it can now be more worthwhile to be aware of these Aspiring TWHS (ATWHS) than to look at a current but aged Tentative List. On my recent short trip to Poland for example, I already added a Cluniac site (Tyniec Abbey) to the itinerary as it lies next to Krakow and it has a high chance of being nominated for WHS within the next 5 years.

What kind of ATWHS are we looking at?

Winterkjm last year already gave a great non-exhaustive summary of sites in the running. We see:

  • Sites in Limbo: often it takes a lot of time between a new Tentative List being declared, and it being publicized on the UNESCO website. I don’t know where the delay is – maybe there is a bit of going back and forward between the two as they also have to deliver a description nowadays. I also wonder about the dating: the recently (March 2023) added Padang Civic Ensemble (Singapore) has been retrospectively given the submission date of 15/09/2022.
  • Sites that are part of large transnational serial nominations: These projects have become succesful over the past couple of years and are now copied all over the place. They take many years and many (often well-publicized) international meetings to take their definitive shape. Still, we know of a number of them that are seriously working towards a nomination without any or all of the sites being on a Tentative List. Think of the Cluniac sites and the Workers Assembly Buildings.
  • Sites in non-acceding countries: there are countries that are already pondering possible nominations, but they have not ratified the WH convention yet (Tuvalu, Nauru) or are not a member of UNESCO (see the recent Taiwan discussion ; it would also include Liechtenstein but I would be hesitant to add any other 'countries' besides perhaps Kosovo -> for further discussion use this existing topic). This country could get its own country page plus a listing of its ATWHS - only if it has any that comply with the criteria outlined in the next paragraph.

How to proceed?

I’d like to give this kind of sites a place on the existing country pages because when you are preparing a WHS-related trip to a certain country nowadays it would be a mistake to disregard these ATWHS.

It would be necessary to separate the wheat from the chaff - I don't want the country pages to become just a list of random 'things to see'. I consider meeting one of the following indicators as being serious:

  • Official additions made public by a government source, but not updated on the UNESCO website yet.
  • Have a nomination website already where progress can be followed.
  • Named as a serial extension on the official tentative site of another country.
  • Has backing from the applicable central government body. Not come from a local/regional source only.
  • Has involvement by UNESCO or one of its Advisory Bodies already.

Testing this for the 20 most recent entries at the ‘Aspiring’ topic, the Maungaroa Valley (Cook Islands), Tanger (Morocco), and Mekong (Cambodia)  would make the cut. All others are mostly local initiatives, although some (Duomo di Milano, Léon) are more serious than others.

There are also a few ATWHS ‘hidden’ in their respective country forum topics, such as the Central Victorian Goldfields (Australia) with a bid website lining up for a new Australian Tentative List. And Cape York (Australia) and Quandamooka (Australia) are backed by the Queensland government. I would propose to keep tracking this kind of selection stages per country towards a new Tentative List in the country's Forum topic, but maybe summarize the candidates and their progress a bit more often than now.

The first step would be just listing the selected ATWHS under their own header ‘Aspiring TWHS’ on the country page (under the Tentative List, but above the FTWHS). We could give each its own site page already too, which would allow for reviews. Solivagant and winterkjm already publicly stated on the Forum that they have reviews waiting for Navan Fort and Busan respectively! If technically feasible, we could also add their locations to the country maps (with a marker in a different colour).

What do you think of listing ATWHS on the country pages? Would you like to be able to add your reviews already, or wait til they are officially declared? 

Els - 16 April 2023

Leave a comment


Frederik Dawson 18 April 2023

Personally, the idea of ATWHS is problematic to make map or even review since there is no conclusive reason provide or selected site information. Even strong ATWHS may not be accept by national WHC or government, so it is too uncertain. IMO the current list of TWHS is already full of nationalist and political supported sites without clear OUV. Adding ATWHS will double the problem and degrade the quality of reviews to be similar with tripadvisor.

Astraftis 17 April 2023

Re F/ATWHS reviews, I understand the ratio; but what would you think (to make irreducible reviewers happy :-P ) of allowing them, just with a very strict character count? So they would be kind of telegraphic observations.

Right now, those pages look so lonely and forlorn... I admit I look at them mostly out of curiousity and not to plan trips. But it would be interesting to have coordinates for them, too, and I would like to collaborate as it is possible to me!

Els Slots 17 April 2023

The FTWHS mapping data stays available, but most FTWHS are very old and don't have any.

Meltwaterfalls 17 April 2023

That is fair enough on not wanting to touch the FTWHS, it makes sense when viewing this site as a travel planning tool, which is what it is for the majority of us.

I guess my persepctive was as the WHS process on the whole. Maybe I will update that FTWHS map over the summer and just keep it ticking over as a curiosity.

Out of interest when sites drop from being on the tentative list to being FTWHS what happens to the mapping data?

Els Slots 17 April 2023

Regarding the reviews / maps for FTWHS - I am firmly against it, as these are the least likely sites that ever will be inscribed as WHS (or have been flatly rejected already). We should look at WHS and those in the running to become one.

I will ponder a bit further about the answers you all gave about the ATWHS, maybe I will start by making them more visible and summarize them more often at the Forum and/or just list them as links in some sort of wheat to chaff order on the country pages.

Astraftis 16 April 2023

Ah, those Cluny abbeys really look like strong candidates! :-)

I would be in for ATWHS, given the strong selection that you sketch. Maybe not necessarily being based on governmental sources, since I have the impression that these might come only very late in the process.

Division B as Meltwaterfalls says is a nice idea: alpha and omega on the same map! I would be glad to add some ATWHS reviews, and I think this could be prompted to be of a slightly different character than others, maybe more "investigative". On the same note, isn't it considered to allow reviews for FTWHSs? Is there a particular reason they are disabled?

Meltwaterfalls 16 April 2023

I think there is something in this, but separating the wheat from the chaff is very important or else we will just have a list of local authority press releases.

Perhaps there is a step up from the forum pages where they could get lost, and actually listing them on a map alongside inscribed and formal tentative sites.

On a similar note we created a map of the former tentative sites several years ago, could the ATWHS be incorporated on that map?

A sort of Division B for WHS showing the full life cycle of tentative sites.

Zoƫ Sheng 16 April 2023

Pretty sure there are dozens of sites in India that were once in the news for "wanting to be inscribed".

Nan 16 April 2023

Not a fan of cramping more sites into the existing maps and pages. If you aren't listed by UNESCO, either inscribed, tentative or former, you are not in yet... Even if we know that you will be added eventually.

Personally, I would create simple and separate map with Google map maker and add locations per mention. Aspiring could also be listed in the country page as text. But not a dedicated page.