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Silk Road: A highway for the whole world

The historic Silk Road “has made enormous progress in recent years”. These were the words of the Secretary-General of UNWTO, Zurab Pololikashvili, speaking during the project’s 8th Ministers’ Meeting at the ITB Berlin Convention. “The Silk Road is the most important cross-border tourism route of the 21st century.” Even countries with different political interests and religions, such as Russia, China, Iraq, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Mongolia, Malaysia, India, Cambodia, Turkey,  Ukraine,  Egypt, Georgia, Bangladesh and Thailand, were seated together at an enormous table at this meeting. All of these countries are cooperating on training, continuing education and research. This year’s Silk Road Meeting was better attended than ever before.

The Silk Road is a network of historic trading routes with many branches. Its main route links the Mediterranean with East Asia. Consequently the Silk Route nations also include Italy, Turkey and Indonesia. For centuries this route has fascinated traders, historians and researchers, and latterly, travellers in search of adventure and culture, as well as those who are ecologically motivated, from all over the world. New research projects are focussed on the west, i.e. the European section of the Silk Road, and the maritime parts, including oceans and waterways such as the Mekong. Here too considerable progress has been made, according to Patrick Fritz, who is currently heading the UNWTO Silk Road project, and is presenting new destinations. All of these countries are acting together. “This is something quite unique”, commented the Silk Road expert.

During the meeting China was praised for its active involvement in the Silk Road project, in aspects such as funding, joint ventures with neighbouring countries and presenting new ideas. Newer nations in Central Asia such as Kyrgyzstan, Tadjikistan and Uzbekistan, with such legendary cities as Buchara, Samarkand and Chiwa, have acquired greater importance in recent years, largely on account of their position at the “heart of the Silk Road”. This was underlined by the Institute for Tourism and Development in its so-called “Sympathie-Magazin”, entitled “Silk Road”, which focusses on these three countries.

Also represented at the Ministers’ Meeting were countries thousands of miles from the traditional Silk Road. “We have come to learn. The Silk Road project is an exceptionally good one.” This was the comment by Priscah Mupfumira, Tourism Minister of Zimbabwe. “Let us hope that our continent will be similarly inspired, for example, for an historic route from southern Africa to Egypt.” David Ruetz, Head of ITB, expressed his delight at the interest shown by Zimbabwe and other countries which are not members of the Silk Road. “We are all working as one family and together we are stronger. And we also inspire each other.”

Bernd Kubisch

Silk Road

www.UNWTO.org http://silkroad.unwto.org/

Press contact: Patrick Fritz

Email: silkroad1@unwto.org

Tel.: +34 91 56781 37

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