UN calls for single Silk Road visa

The city of Jiaohe, in China's Xinjiang region, formed part of the ancient Silk Road
The city of Jiaohe, in China’s Xinjiang region, formed part of the ancient Silk Road

The UN has called for a single tourist visa for countries in Central Asia, to boost tourism development along the ancient Silk Road.

At the UNESCO and UNWTO-led ‘Silk Roads Heritage Corridors Tourism Strategy Workshop’, which was held in Kazakhstan earlier this month, representatives from the UN’s tourism and heritage bodies said China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan “must work towards a single Silk Road visa” if the potential for tourism growth along the Silk Road Heritage Corridors is to be fully realised.

Complicated visa systems, inefficient application processes and high fees hinder the development of the Silk Road as a tourism destination, they added.

“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,” UNWTO Secretary-General, Taleb Rifai, said at the event in Almaty.

Asset Issekeshev, Kazakhstan’s Deputy Prime Minister, agreed. “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,” he said.

To boost tourism and conservation in the region, two World Heritage nominations for the Silk Roads Heritage Corridors in Central Asia and China have been submitted to UNESCO.

A recent UNWTO study found that the easing of visa regulations could create up to 2.6 million new jobs in the Asia Pacific region by 2016.

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