With museums, cultural institutions, World Heritage Sites, and other historic monuments closed, communities are deprived of culture as well as significant revenues. At the height of the global lockdown, 90% of countries had closed their World Heritage properties.
The medium- and long-term implications are significant as many natural and cultural World Heritage sites rely on tourism revenue to carry out conservation or archaeological work. The upkeep of certain cultural sites and institutions could be in jeopardy. In addition, in some places, there has been an uptick in poaching and looting. Museums have been particularly affected by the pandemic; 90% closed their doors during the crisis and as many as one in eight may never reopen again. The cancellation of national and local cultural and religious events—such as festivals, rituals, and varying forms of traditional practices—has had a direct impact on communities and their social fabric and cohesion.
In Ghana, COVID-19 has dramatically impacted the cultural tourism and hospitality industry. The Central Region of Ghana which hosts the famous World Heritage Sites of Elmina Castle and Cape Coast Castle has been especially hard-hit. All the major attractions and subsequently all 57 hotels in the region have closed down. It is estimated that directly or indirectly some 1,500 jobs have been lost.
In Sri Lanka, the decline in human and financial resources is impacting the operation and maintenance arrangements of heritage sites, with archaeological monuments particularly at risk, including from overgrown weeds. Similarly, the continued closure of painted cave temples could negatively impact the paintings due to lack of proper ventilation systems or effective monitoring.
As experienced in several countries, reduced security can elevate the risk of theft of artefacts in cultural sites and illegal activities in natural heritage areas.
Source: World Bank