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24 EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW World heritage as a tourism Asset Silk Road ministers’ meeting at ITB Berlin to plot a clearer roadmap towards sustainability and global promotion just over 40 years ago, the World heritage Convention was conceived to protect sites of ‘outstanding universal value’ to humanity. Today, almost 1,000 sites are World heritage listed and increasingly millions of people travel each year to experience these unique cultural and natural assets. The ancient silk road is home to some of the world’s most impressive heritage sites, and the silk road Ministers’ Meeting 2013 – on 6th March at ITB Berlin – will look at the key issues relating to effective heritage management for tourism. We asked the secretary-General of the World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) Taleb rifai to tell us more… Taleb Rifai Secretary-General of the World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) Taleb Rifai (born Jordan, 1949) has been the UNWTO Secretary-General since 1 January 2010, after having served Secretary-General ad interim and Deputy Secretary- General. Prior to joining UNWTO, he was the Assistant Director-General of the International Labour Organization (ILO). He also held ministerial portfolios in the Government of Jordan: Minister of Tourism and Antiquities; Minister of Information; and, Minister of Planning and International Cooperation. Mr. Rifai holds a PhD in Urban Design and Regional Planning from the University of Pennsylvania and an MSc in Engineering and Architecture from the Illinois Institute of Technology, Chicago. He also attained a BSc in Architectural Engineering from the University of Cairo (Egypt). The 3 rd Silk Road Ministers Meeting will be attended by Ministers and Deputy Ministers of Tourism from the Silk Road countries, high level government officials and advisors, as well as the Ambassadors of the Silk Road countries to Germany. Also in attendance will be members of the Silk Road Task Force and other prominent tourism experts. The meeting aims to bring together the ministers of Silk Road countries to debate key issues related to both cultural heritage and its management along the Silk Road. These include possible new ways of collaboration in managing and marketing heritage sites, and the sharing of best practice in heritage management and community engagement. The importance of intangible cultural heritage for encouraging pro-poor growth and the potential of new technologies in heritage management will also be discussed. The Silk Road Action Plan has been under way for some years, focusing on developing sustainable tourism in a number of participating countries. Could you tell us more about how the project is progressing? The progress is very solid. The Silk Road Action Plan has made significant progress in raising the profile of the Silk Road brand. It has generated a significant amount of positive media coverage through press trips and campaigns, and we are currently working on a new branding strategy to further strengthen the Silk Road image. During the past two years, we have also welcomed four new members - Albania, Bangladesh, Croatia and Bulgaria – raising the total number of countries engaged in this initiative to 29. We are very pleased to note an enhanced level of collaboration between the Silk Road countries, who are now working together on new strategic development projects and we welcome ThE SILk RoaD the building of new alliances and partnerships, as well as a closer engagement of some of our sister UN agencies, such as UNESCO, UNCTAD and UNDP. The establishment of the UNWTO Silk Road Task Force in 2011 marked an important milestone for us. Made up of public and private sector representatives, the Task Force helps determine the key strategies and actions of the Silk Road Programme, and is an excellent example of true and active stakeholder participation. Furthermore, The UNWTO Silk Road Programme has established a number of annual Silk Road events at major fairs across the world, including ITB Berlin, as well Acclaimed as the ‘greatest route in the history of mankind’ the ancient Silk Road formed the first bridge between the East and West and was an important vehicle for trade between ancient empires of China, India, Persia & Rome. Dating back to 200 BC, the route was a channel for contact between people and cultures, inspiring the exchange of dialogue, art, religion, ideas & technology. With its richly diverse cultural heritage and its wealth of natural tourism attractions spanning across 12,000 kilometers of ancient routes, the Silk Road today offers visitors the opportunity to experience a unique network of destinations, following the footsteps of some of the world’s most acclaimed explorers such as Alexander the Great and Marco Polo. ITB BERLIN NEWS • Wednesday 27 th February 2013

EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW 25 Flaming Mountain-Tulufan-Xinjiang-China ThE LONG TErM GOAL, IN sIMPLE TErMs, Is TO EsTABLIsh ThE sILk rOAD As AN INTErNATIONALLy rENOWNED, sEAMLEss TrAVEL ExPErIENCE. as holding a series of major international conferences addressing marketing and promotion and destination management on the Silk Road. What are the main goals and objectives in the current period (2012/2013)? We wish to keep building on existing partnerships in order to expand the network of Silk Road stakeholders, as well as continuing to raise awareness on issues relating to travel facilitation, which is the key to advancing any multi-destination strategy. We have a number of major conferences coming up, including the 6th International Meeting on the Silk Road: Building a New Silk Road for Tourism to be held in Dunhuang, China in June, 2013, in collaboration with the China National Tourism Administration and the Gansu Provincial People’s Government. That meeting will be where some of these issues will be debated. Capacity building is also an important objective for the UNWTO Silk Road Programme. Several capacity building projects are in the pipeline, among which are a Silk Road heritage project in partnership with UNESCO and a pilot project of the Silk Road Volunteers initiative. As a partner of the European Union’s VeRoTour project – the Silk Road Programme is also providing support on a pilot project aimed at developing maritime tourism along ancient Venetian routes. What are the key achievements that have marked the past year? 2012 saw several excellent developments of the UNWTO Silk Road Programme. The conference Flavours of the Silk Road: International Conference on Food, Culture and Tourism, organised together with the Ministry of Culture and Tourism of the Republic of Azerbaijan and the Azerbaijan Tourism Association, was very successful in raising the profile of Silk Road food tourism. Another project well worth mentioning is the collaboration with the UNWTO Affiliate Member Ecole Hôtelière de Lausanne (EHL), where 170 future hospitality leaders teamed up with the Silk Road countries to develop innovative strategies for maximising the positioning of ten places as Silk Road destinations. The UNWTO Silk Road Programme also implemented a number of consumer campaigns for the Silk Road. We were very pleased to work with Pilot Productions, which featured the Silk Road in two episodes of their award-winning travel adventure television show ‘Globe Trekker’, taking viewers on a journey from Xi’an through Central Asia to Istanbul. Broadcast to an audience of 30 million viewers in 40 countries, the series stimulated substantial publicity for the Silk Road. One of the aims of the project is to create better awareness of this initiative at trade shows. What is being done in this respect at ITB Berlin 2013? ITB Berlin is a key meeting place for UNWTO and its Members and we are very pleased that the Silk Road Ministers’ Meeting and the Silk Road Tour Operators’ Forum are now permanent fixtures at ITB Berlin. I would also like to take the opportunity to thank Messe Berlin for its ongoing support of UNWTO. The Ministers’ Meeting continues to grow stronger each year, attracting representation from around 25 countries in 2012. For this year’s Tour Operators’ Forum, we are partnering with a number of key industry bodies from the Silk Road, anticipating an even higher level of attention from the travel trade than at last year’s successful event. Furthermore, we will continue to work with ITB Berlin Cinema to feature the Silk Road on the silver screen. The long-term goal, in simple terms, is to establish the Silk Road as an internationally renowned, seamless travel experience. In light of this, we are focusing on the development of a Silk Road brand and addressing issues relating to travel facilitation such as border crossing and working towards a single Silk Road tourist visa. Capacity building and destination management are other important components, with a special focus on heritage conservation and increasing connectivity through the development of tourism routes. Hall 20 Stand 127 ThE RoLE of ThE UNWTo as a specialised agency of the United Nations, the World tourism Organization is the leading international organization in the field of tourism, a global forum for tourism policy issues and a practical source of tourism know-how. uNWtO plays a central and decisive role in promoting the development of responsible, sustainable and universally accessible tourism, paying particular attention to the interests of developing countries. With impact on economic growth and development, tourism can make a significant contribution to address climate and poverty imperatives. Offering opportunities for entrepreneurship, it provides millions of direct jobs worldwide, as well as countless more through its multiplier effect on related sectors. uNWtO takes a leading role in encouraging the implementation of the Global Code of Ethics for Tourism in order to maximise the positive economic, social and cultural effects of tourism and fully reap its benefits while minimising negative impacts. ITB BERLIN NEWS • Wednesday 27 th February 2013

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