Fourteen Silk Road countries met in Iran recently to discuss the development of tourism along the ancient trade route.
The sixth UNWTO Silk Road Task Force Meeting was hosted in Urmia, a city in the far northwest of Iran, from 22-25 April 2016. The aim was to discuss a series of measures aimed at advancing cross-border tourism along the Silk Road, including infrastructure development and visa facilitation. More than 500 public and private sector stakeholders attended the event.
“We are at a crucial point of the Silk Road Programme as a growing number of countries are prioritising the Silk Road in their economic development strategies. There is also an increasing demand for transnational tourism routes and itineraries globally from the perspective of both public and private sectors and we must maximise this trend,” said Zoltan Somogyi, UNWTO executive director.
In addition to the issues of travel facilitation, the countries also agreed to develop a Silk Road mobile app featuring travel information and maps. And proposals were put forward regarding the establishment of a training centre for Silk Road guides, and the development of a new “Heritage Corridor” linking Iran with Iraq.
As well as the UNWTO and Iran, the event was attended by delegates from UNESCO, Bulgaria, Croatia, Georgia, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Kazakhstan, Mongolia, Pakistan, Russia, Spain, Turkey, Ukraine and Uzbekistan.
The 14 assembled countries however, represented fewer than half the total 33 member states participating in the Silk Road Programme, and China – one of the Silk Road’s most important countries – did not attend the meeting.
One of the stated goals of the Silk Road Programme is to “work towards developing a Silk Road tourist visa”.