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Visa facilitation, infrastructure and marketing: key priorities for Silk Road Ministers

Visa facilitation, infrastructure development and marketing were the priorities identified by the 5th UNWTO Silk Road Ministers’ Meeting at ITB to advance transnational routes (ITB Berlin, Germany 4 March 2015).

Participating countries reported on the measures taken to promote Silk Road tourism with a clear focus on visa facilitation, while calling for a more collaborative approach to marketing, namely e-marketing and cooperation with tour operators. Ministers recognized that in spite of the progress achieved in recent years in the area of travel facilitation, this issue remains high on the agenda as it constitutes one of the major obstacles for tourism development along the Silk Road.

“It is the shared history and culture of the countries along the Silk Road that links them together. We need to enhance these links by promoting transnational route development and facilitating travel” said UNWTO Secretary-General Taleb Rifai in opening the meeting. “UNWTO remains firmly committed to working closely with our Member States to maximize the opportunities for tourism to boost trade and inclusive development across the Silk Road”, he added.

UNWTO updated participants on the implementation of the Silk Road Action Plan 2014/2015, including the actions undertaken at major international fairs such as ITB Berlin, JATA Tourism Expo Japan and WTM London. The Meeting also highlighted the importance of the inscription of the first Silk Road heritage corridor on the World Heritage list – a milestone which culminates ten years of extensive research by UNESCO and partners.

Building upon the conclusions of the recent UNWTO/UNESCO World Conference on Tourism and Culture held last February in Siem Reap, Cambodia, the Meeting further emphasized the need for Tourism and Culture to work closely together to build a sustainable future for the Silk Road and ensure that tourism makes a strong contribution to safeguard the region’s unique cultural and natural heritage.

In this respect, participants condemned the destruction of cultural heritage in Iraq, one of the Member States of the Silk Road, recalling UN Security Council Resolution 2199 (2015) adopted on 12 February which condemns “the destruction of cultural heritage in Iraq and Syria and calls upon “all Member States to take steps, in cooperation with Interpol, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and other international organizations, to prevent the trade in items of cultural, scientific and religious importance illegally removed from either country during periods of conflict.

The meeting was attended by 22 Ministers of Tourism as well as UNESCO, the European Union, the Council of Europe, the Adventure Travel Trade Association (ATTA), the Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA) and the Turkish Council.

The UNWTO Silk Road Task Force will meet next month in Seoul, Republic of Korea to continue work on projects and priorities outlined at the Ministers’ Meeting.

Silk Road Action Plan 20142015

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