The George Town World Heritage Site (GTWHS), a living historic city, has undergone significant change since its inscription by UNESCO in 2008. In 2009, Think City pioneered the methodology for a population and land use census of the GTWHS, which was repeated in 2013 and 2019. This study enabled an accurate understanding of the GTWHS’s issues, tracking of changes, measurement of impacts, assessment of policy instruments’ effectiveness, and design of recalibration measurements. This comprehensive database which captured 6,713 entities in 5,403 buildings in 2019 has now been analysed to provide an account of the socio-cultural and economic changes in GTWHS since 2009.
The census revealed that the George Town World Heritage Site’s land use and socio-economic make-up changes significantly between 2009 and 2019 due to a combination of local investments, policy interventions and broader industry shifts. The site’s heritage and cultural characteristics underpinned a process of urban revitalisation with more businesses, more tourists and a larger day-time population. The loss of residences and reliance on tourism however created new vulnerabilities, and these were exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic and associated mobility restrictions.The report validated key build back better efforts needed to diversify the economy, invest in public cultural assets, improve comfort and liveability and repopulate the heritage site.