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Silk Road: a caravan route as a trademark

It is a tourist route connecting 33 countries, that despite the different political systems promotes understanding and tolerance, creates jobs, drives economic growth and is famous as a trademark among travellers around the world. Thus, at the Silk Road Ministers’ meeting which took place at the ITB Convention, Taleb Rifai, general secretary of the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), gave an account of the most recent achievements surrounding this centuries-old caravan route. Whether from Kyrgyzstan, Iran or Cambodia – the high-ranking representatives of the Silk Road project were full of praise.

The Silk Road is an extensive network of historical trading routes, the main one connecting the Mediterranean with Eastern Asia. Italy, Turkey, Thailand and Indonesia are also among the countries along the Silk Road. For centuries the route has fascinated traders, historians, explorers and nowadays attracts adventurers as well as alternative and culturally interested travellers from around the world. For many seasoned travellers the Silk Road has become a part of their lives like Coca Cola, said Alla Peressolova, head of the UNWTO Silk Road programme, quoting leading media sources. And the Ministers’ meeting at the ITB, the sixth of its kind in 2016, was an important milestone in the history of its success, she added.

According to a TripAdvisor survey presented at the meeting, countries which tourists generally identify with the Silk Road include China, Mongolia, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Iran, Turkey, Turkmenistan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Azerbaijan. However, it is the cities that tourists are most interested in as they travel across numerous countries. These are followed by UNESCO World Heritage Sites, gastronomy and shopping at bazaars and markets.

In many countries state and private funding is modest, so that more and more destinations focus on public-private partnerships (PPPs). According to UNWTO these partnerships benefit everyone involved. Road, port and airport construction projects offer an example. In 2016 and the years to follow the PPP sector is to be greatly expanded in the countries of the Silk Road.

Significant progress has been made as regards entry visa formalities and in many countries visas can also be obtained on arriving at the airport. All the same, UNWTO General Secretary Rifai would like to see further improvements. Some regions continue to hinder trade and tourism by upholding rules that are no longer in keeping with the times.  Accordingly, UNWTO would do everything to ensure that improved border and visa policies  would generate more tourism, jobs and greater economic growth, he said.

Bernd Kubisch



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