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Silk Road makes a comeback: Even freight trains are promoting the Silk Road

The Silk Road tourism project represents an astonishing international comeback for this historic route. More or less as the “new Silk Road“, this network of historic trading routes with its many different branches is not only helping to boost tourism but is also having an impact on business and science in the region, as well as encouraging political cooperation and easing visa restrictions. This is one of the important outcomes of the 9th Silk Road Ministers’ Meeting at the ITB Berlin Convention.

There is still a long way to go before a united, visa-free Silk Road becomes a reality. “However, enormous progress has been made”, according to Patrick Fritz, who heads the Silk Road project for the UNWTO. The Silk Road, its history, cultural heritage and current prospects are also the subject of new teaching and learning material at a number of universities and academies. In this respect Fritz also referred to a university in Thessaloniki as well as institutions in Spain and Uzbekistan.

The Secretary General of the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), Zurab Pololikashvili, was keen to point out that the Silk Road has been responsible for “bringing about massive improvements in recent years.“ A total of 34 countries from Europe to Southeast Asia are working together on marketing, advertising, capacity building, tourism research and cross-border travel projects. There is also a growing awareness in these countries that tourism should also make its contribution to preserving culture, the environment and social understanding, the Secretary General stated.

China in particular is using the Silk Road brand as a way of promoting infrastructural expansion and other investments around the world. These also include a new rail freight link from China to Germany, with a length of over 10,000 kilometres, running through Kazakhstan, Russia and Poland. A few weeks ago the media in a number of countries published photographs and reports from China and Germany dealing with this subject. Speaking on the fringes of this ministerial meeting, a number of participants were very positive about this PR campaign.

Travel in the regions through which the Silk Road runs also presents numerous challenges. On the positive side, according to the UNWTO most countries have simplified their entry requirements. Examples include visas on arrival and e-visas. Some of them have completely abolished their entry restrictions. Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan are planning to introduce a joint Silk Visa, which could also include the other Central Asian republics.

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 the table at the Silk Road Meeting at ITB.

The main route taken by the historic Silk Road links the Mediterranean with the Middle East and East Asia. Consequently the Silk Road 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.

Bernd Kubisch

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

Press contact: Patrick Fritz

email: silkroad1@unwto.org

Tel.: +34 91 56781 37

photo credit: Pixabay

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