Tourism has grown at an accelerated pace over the last few decades and forecasts indicate an ever faster rate of growth into the new Millenium, with Asia and the Pacific becoming the second most important tourism destination of the world by 2020. One of the pillars of the tourism industry has been mankind's inherent desire to see and learn about the cultural identity of different parts of the world. In domestic tourism, cultural heritage stimulates national pride in one's history. In international tourism, cultural heritage stimulates a respect and understanding of other cultures and, as a consequence, promotes peace and understanding. The Asia-Pacific continent is the most diverse in terms of cultural heritage. It has been the birthplace of all the world's major religions - Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, and Judaism - and a great many of its minor ones. The interchange of cultures over thousands of years has resulted in some of the best historical monuments and a plethora of religious and cultural mix. Famed for archaeological rarities of immense beauty such as Angkor Wat, Borobudur, the Great Wall, and the Taj Mahal, Asia undoubtedly forms an extremely attractive and diversified tourism product which has something to offer to tourists from all walks of life. Aware of the wealth and diversity of culture to be found in Asia, and realising that Asia would become a leading tourism destination in the near future, tourism planners and tourists alike are learning to beware of mass and unplanned tourism and strive for sustainable tourism development. Cultural heritage attractions are, by nature, unique and fragile. Therefore, it is fundamental that tourism authorities study how best to develop these cultural heritage sites while protecting and preserving them for the long-term. If not, irreparable and irreversible damage can be done to the very heart of Asia's cultural identity.
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