Countries along the ancient Silk Road should improve visa processes if they are to maximise their combined tourism potential, the UN has urged.
At the Silk Road Ministers’ Meeting, which took place at ITB Berlin last week, the UN World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) said that visa facilitation, infrastructure development and marketing were the key priorities for Silk Road countries, as they bid to create more cross-border tourism routes.
The UNTWO said that ministers attending the event recognised that the issue of visas remains “one of the major obstacles for tourism development along the Silk Road”.
“It is the shared history and culture of the countries along the Silk Road that links them together. We need to enhance these links by promoting transnational route development and facilitating travel,” said UNWTO secretary-general, Taleb Rifai.
“UNWTO remains firmly committed to working closely with our member states to maximise the opportunities for tourism to boost trade and inclusive development across the Silk Road,” he added.
The UNWTO also used the event to condemn the destruction of cultural heritage in Iraq – one of the Silk Road programme members – and called upon “all member states to take steps, in cooperation with Interpol, UNESCO and other international organisations, to prevent the trade in items of cultural, scientific and religious importance illegally removed from either country during periods of conflict”.
The UNWTO’s Silk Road programme currently comprises 31 countries, stretching from Europe and north Africa to South and East Asia. The UNWTO has previously urged key Silk Road countries like China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan to “work towards a single Silk Road visa”.