The World Heritage Hustle: Why Being On UNESCO's List Can Be a Curse

Alessandro Grassani / Invision Images

Isn't that lovely Now let's flood it with tourists

The historic center of Hoi An looks just how Vietnam is supposed to look: narrow lanes, wooden shop houses, a charming covered bridge. Hoi An's well-preserved architecture — from the 16th century onward, the port attracted traders from as far away as Portugal and Persia — led UNESCO to deem it a World Heritage site in 1999, praising it as an "outstanding material manifestation of the fusion of cultures over time in an international commercial port." Last month, I took a family holiday there, if not to enjoy an "outstanding material manifestation," then simply to visit a historic place. I was...