Tourism and heritage experts called for more effective visa systems to support tourism development at the UNESCO/UNWTO Silk Roads Heritage Corridors Tourism Strategy Workshop. The workshop aimed to define a tourism management roadmap for two UNESCO Silk Road Heritage Corridors crossing China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan and was held on October 7-8, 2013, in Almaty, Kazakhstan.
Countries must work towards a single Silk Road visa if the potential for tourism growth along the Silk Road Heritage Corridors is to be fully realized, concluded representatives of the five countries present at the workshop, noting that complicated visa systems, inefficient application processes and high fees hinder the development of the Silk Road as an internationally renowned network of tourism destinations.
Opening the workshop, UNWTO Secretary-General, Taleb Rifai said “UNWTO is delighted that this important meeting is taking place in Almaty, a hub for cultural exchange and trade right from the early days of the ancient Silk Road. The Silk Road Heritage Corridors project presents an excellent opportunity for Kazakhstan, and for other participating countries, to advance tourism development in a way that showcases and preserves its outstanding cultural and natural treasures.”
Asset Issekeshev, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Industry and New Technologies of the Republic of Kazakhstan said “Tourism is becoming an important sector for Kazakhstan, particularly in terms of growth for small and medium sized enterprises. Developing Silk Road tourism is a key priority and I am convinced the Silk Road Heritage Corridors project will be supported by all parties and together we will successfully tackle the challenges that lie ahead.”
This workshop follows years of research by UNESCO, ICOMOS and the University College London (UCL) on sites and routes of the Silk Road, as part of the transnational Silk Roads World Heritage Serial Nomination project. With an unprecedented level of collaboration between 15 countries, two World Heritage Nominations for the Silk Roads Heritage Corridors in Central Asia and China have been submitted to UNESCO with the final evaluation on the nominations set to take place over 2013/2014.
Anticipating an increase in interest and visitation following the possible nomination of these Heritage Corridors, UNWTO and UNESCO are working with experts to design and implement an effective tourism management strategy that maximizes the opportunities of tourism development while safeguarding the regions’ unique cultural heritage.
Visa facilitation will be the key topic at the upcoming 4th UNWTO Silk Road Ministers’ Meeting to be held at ITB Berlin on 5 March 2014, supported by ITB Berlin.
The UNESCO/UNWTO Silk Roads Heritage Corridors Tourism Strategy Workshop was organized by UNWTO, UNESCO, and the Ministry of Industry and New Technologies of the Republic of Kazakhstan, with the support of the UNESCO/Netherlands Funds-in-Trust.