More than 1 million votes were cast, and the preliminary results are in.
The Amazon Rain Forest, Halong Bay (pictured, left), and Iguazu Falls are the top three vote getters in a contest to name the world's New Top Top Seven Wonders of Nature.
And despite widespread reports that the vote was sponsored by UNESCO, the United Nation's educational and scientific body had nothing to do with it.
“In order to avoid any damaging confusion, UNESCO wishes to reaffirm that there is no link whatsoever between UNESCO's World Heritage programme, which aims to protect world heritage, and the current campaign concerning 'The New 7 Wonders of the World',” UNESCO says.
“This campaign was launched in 2000 as a private initiative by Bernard Weber, the idea being to encourage citizens around the world to select seven new wonders of the world by popular vote. Although UNESCO was invited to support this project on several occasions, the Organization decided not to collaborate with Mr. Weber.”
New Top 7 Wonders of Nature
A list of the seven natural wonders that got the most votes follows.
- Amazon Rain Forest – Brazil
- Halong Bay – Vietnam
- Iguazu Falls – Argentina
- Jeju Island – South Korea
- Komodo – Indonesia
- Puerto Princessa Underground River – Philippines
- Table Mountain – South Africa
While some of these choices are obvious, others – I mean, let's get serious – has anyone ever heard of them? Where is the Grand Canyon? What about the Dead Sea? Did somebody stuff the ballot box?
Halong Bay, Vietnam
Still, being named one of the New 7 Wonders of Nature will prove a boon to the travel and tourism industry of the communities located nearby. Take Vietnam's Halong Bay, which does – I can assure you – deserves to make this list.
Studded with 2,000 limestone karst islands, the 1,500-square kilometer bay is drop dead gorgeous. Already the area's tourism operators are drawing up plans to cash in on the public relations coup that being named one of the world's top seven natural wonders represents.
"Halong Bay is the unimpeachable choice," says Kurt Walter, group general manager of Apple Tree Group Hospitality, which includes Emeraude Classic Cruises on Halong Bay.
"For so many years, Halong Bay was shrouded by the veil of war and strife, and really it's only been since the 1990s that the world has started waking up to the bay's magnificence. And now that it has, we expect to see a great deal of interest in seeing the bay first hand."
5.4 Million Tourists Expected
News sources inside Vietnam believe 5.4 million tourists will visit Halong Bay in 2011. Among them, 2.5 million will be foreign travelers. The bay was named a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1994, and then again in 2000 for its geological value. It is Vietnam's top tourist attraction.
"The bay's already popular, but that's among a certain set of travelers, people interested in cultural pursuits and really going beyond the well-trodden paths you find in places like Thailand and Bali," says Adam Sitkoff, executive director of the American Chamber of Commerce in Vietnam.
"But now with this new recognition, it's more likely that Halong Bay will move more decisively into the main currents of travelers to Southeast Asia."