29 May 2009The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and Chile today embarked on a new programme to develop sustainable tourism on Easter Island, which receives some 60,000 visitors every year. The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and Chile today embarked on a new programme to develop sustainable tourism on Easter Island, which receives some 60,000 visitors every year. “The project aims to develop tourism strategies that respect the outstanding universal value of the Rapa Nui National Park,” UNESCO said in a news release. The programme, financed by the Japanese Government, will promote training and involvement of the local communities on the island in sustainable ecotourism. “It is expected that the project will alleviate the growing pressure on the island’s fragile ecosystem resulting from tourism,” UNESCO said. Easter Island is located over 3,500 kilometres west of continental Chile. UNESCO inscribed Rapa Nui National Park, which contains giant Polynesian stone figures known as moai, on its World Heritage List in 1995. UNESCO Director-General Koïchiro Matsuura said the project will “reduce the negative impact of tourism […] by finding a balance between the needs for the preservation of the site and the development of the island community.” Chilean President Michelle Bachelet, who was present at the signing of the agreement in Paris, said the programme is a “remarkable initiative intended to give the local community a leading role in the enhancement and promotion of their own heritage.”“A society capable of preserving its heritage is capable of preserving its history and its identity,” the President stated.