SAN ANTONIO - The San Antonio Franciscan Missions have been inscribed as a World Heritage Site in a decision by the United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization.
The announcement was made Sunday morning in Bonn, Germany, where several city and county leaders have been in attendance at the World Heritage Summit.
The prestigious designation sets the missions alongside other sites such as the Pyramids of Giza and the Great Wall of China.
The San Antonio Missions become Texas’ first World Heritage Site and the 23rd in the United States.
Other U.S. sites include the Statue of Liberty, Independence Hall, the Grand Canyon, Yellowstone National Park, Louisiana’s Poverty Point and others.
The San Antonio delegation included Mayor Ivy Taylor, Councilwoman Rebecca Viagran, Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff, representatives from the San Antonio River Authority and other city officials.
Mayor Taylor issued a statement that read in part:
"The City of San Antonio is delighted with UNESCO’s action today and the recognition that our Spanish colonial missions are of outstanding cultural and historical value to the people of the world,” said Mayor Taylor. “The strong collaboration responsible for our application, which includes an ongoing commitment to protect and preserve the missions, will also continue to work together to tell our story to visitors from around the globe and build even stronger relationships with countries like Mexico and Spain, because we are telling their story too.”
Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff added:
“Bexar County has been heavily invested in the community quest for World Heritage inscription with the Bexar County Historical Commission involvement in writing the application to the investment in the 8-mile Mission Reach that connects four of the missions to funding the economic impact study of becoming a World Heritage Site," Wolff said.
The lengthy and technical nomination process began in 2006 at the initiation of the San Antonio Conservation Society.
CATALYST FOR SOCIO-ECONOMIC CHANGE IN SAN ANTONIO
The World Heritage designation is expected to be a catalyst for socio-economic change.
The greatest economic impact would come from increased visitation and tourism spending.
According to a press release by the City of San Antonio, the World Heritage Site economic impact on San Antonio and Bexar County is expected to generate up to $105 million in additional economic activity and up to 1,098 extra jobs by 2025.
"The chain of Spanish missions reaching from the Alamo to the South Side is the wellspring of our rich heritage. We've known all along how important these simple, beautiful structures are to our city, the great state of Texas and North America," District 9 Councilman Joe Krier said in a statement.
In his statement, Krier cited the potential economic impact of the missions' new designation.
"A county study gave us an eye-opening indication of how much interest the missions Trail could draw as a World Heritage site. It estimated that a flood of tourists visiting the Missions could eventually deliver an economic impact of $100 million per year," he said.
Videos below feature reaction from Mayor Ivy Taylor and Judge Nelson Wolff:
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