A campaign to find the world’s most popular natural wonders, promoted as a contribution to environmental protection, has been attacked as little more than a moneymaking exercise, reports the UK’s Telegraph newspaper.
“There have been accusations that several of the more obscure places on the ‘New7Wonders of Nature’ list, announced earlier this month, owe their ranking less to their beauty than to the readiness of tourism or marketing organisations to stump up cash – including taxpayers’ money – in their support.
“Tourism authorities in the Maldives and Indonesia, which both withdrew their backing for the project earlier this year, have cited concerns over voting methods and “hidden” costs, while Unesco – the agency of the United Nations dedicated to protecting natural and man-made sites – has repeatedly distanced itself from the project.
“A provisional list of seven wonders – including little-known islands in South Korea and the Philippines – was published on November 11. People had been encouraged to vote for free online or by paid text message to help compile it from a shortlist of 28. That shortlist had itself been whittled down from an original list of more than 400 submitted since the launch of the project in 2007 by the Zurich-based New7Wonders Foundation (N7W).
“Each of the 28 finalists had to be represented by an ‘official supporting committee (OSC)’, which was charged an initial US$199 ‘administration fee’. The government-funded Maldives Marketing and PR Corporation (MMPRC) – which submitted the islands as a candidate – claims that organisers later demanded up to $350,000 in ‘sponsorship fees’ and hundreds of thousands more to organise an extravagant “world tour” event. The cost to the country’s economy would have been more than S$500,000.”