Silk Road cities see tourism as route to further success

Updated: Sep 18, 2023 By Xu Haoyu China Daily Print
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Representatives from 58 cities in 26 countries attend activities to launch the International Tourism Alliance of Silk Road Cities in Jingdezhen, Jiangxi province. [Photo provided to China Daily]

A series of events marking the establishment of the International Tourism Alliance of Silk Road Cities were successfully held on Sept 1 in Jingdezhen, Jiangxi province.

A total of 58 cities from 26 countries, covering Asia, Europe, Africa and the Americas, have joined the alliance to boost cooperation in tourism, technology, health, education and sports.

Concurrently, the International Forum on Culture and Tourism Development of Silk Road Cities 2023 also took place. The forum focused on the cooperation and development of Silk Road tourism cities through keynote speeches and discussions.

"Tourism is an ambassador of peace and a bridge of friendship," said Lu Yingchuan, the deputy minister of the Ministry of Culture and Tourism, on the launch ceremony of the tourism alliance.

"Today, the tourism industry, endowed with both cultural and industrial attributes, is in the process of rejuvenating in the post-pandemic era and is receiving high attention from countries and cities around the world."

Wang Shaoxuan, the deputy director of the standing committee of Jiangxi Provincial People's Congress, said that, "Jiangxi has long been an important goods export destination along the Silk Road. Products like porcelain, tea, xiabu ('summer cloth', or handmade linen), silk cocoons, and traditional Chinese medicine, have always been 'bestsellers' that are popular in various Silk Road countries."

Looking to the future, Wang stated that Jiangxi is eager to further solidify Jingdezhen's role as the top city of the International Tourism Alliance of Silk Road Cities. Through cultural and tourism exchanges between cities, Jiangxi aims to strengthen interaction and cooperation with countries and regions along the route. The goal is to jointly create a Silk Road tourism brand, share the Silk Road tourism market, and collectively build a Silk Road tourism industry community.

The Vice-Minister of Iran's Cultural Heritage, Tourism, and Handicrafts departments, Ali Asghar Shalbafian Hossein-Abadi, and Vinicius Rene Lummertz Silva, Brazil's former tourism minister, each delivered a keynote speech on the theme of "the 10th Anniversary of the Belt and Road Initiative: The Significant Importance and Future Prospects of Cooperation among Silk Road Tourism Cities".

Shalbafian highly praised the initiative to establish the International Tourism Alliance of Silk Road Cities. He stated that the Silk Road left a 600-kilometer-long ancient trade route in Semnan on the north side of Iran, which he considers an enduring treasure for the whole world.

He believes that by developing sensible policies centered around the Silk Road as a cultural and tourism brand, it's possible to unlock the tourism potential of member cities. This would invigorate their economies, facilitate regional synergistic development and industrial integration, and also bring positive energy to international relations.

Lummertz focused on the common developmental bottlenecks currently faced by the international tourism industry in his speech, and he claimed that collaboration could be the only solution.

Lummertz expressed genuine happiness that the city of Iguazu in Brazil, which had awarded him "honorary citizenship", had joined the International Tourism Alliance of Silk Road Cities. He believes that the alliance will facilitate regional tourism resource integration and the creation of international tourism products. Especially against the backdrop of traditional tourism destinations reaching market saturation and the increasing demand for emerging tourism destinations, the alliance will create new opportunities and pave new pathways for the recovery of the global tourism industry.

During the forum, which was held immediately after the ceremony, the discussions centered on how to better empower city construction and sustainable development through the tourism industry.

Evelyne Tchichelle, mayor of Pointe-Noire, the Republic of Congo, stated that the city is the economic capital of the country with high-quality tourism resources like coastlines, forests and cultural heritage sites. She emphasized that economic development must proceed on the premise of conservation and stressed the importance of effective marketing and promotion.

Florencio Garay, mayor of Bislig city, the Philippines, also mentioned the importance of sustainability. He highlighted that city development must pay close attention to the sustainability of the ecosystem, economic investments, and the development of tourism resources.

As the mayor of Petra in Jordan, a city that is renowned for its historical and cultural significance, Suleiman Farajat stressed that the protection of world heritage sites can help enhance cultural confidence and cultural identity, which are important elements for the sustainable development of a city.

"Before the COVID-19 pandemic, South Africa received nearly 100,000 Chinese tourists annually. By 2030, the number is expected to increase to 1 million," said South African Ambassador to China Siyabonga Cyprian Cwele.

"Air China recently announced that direct flights between China and South Africa will be increased. This prosperous air transport route between the two countries will become an important bridge for economic, trade, tourism, and cultural exchanges and cooperation. China has always been one of South Africa's most important tourism and trade markets," he said.

The forum also witnessed the establishment of the Jingdezhen Declaration, which follows the principles of "extensive consultation, joint contributions, and shared benefits". The declaration claims, "The alliance's members are committed to making the body an inclusive international mechanism of tourism cooperation, thus contributing to the more sustainable development of the tourism industry and the implementation of the Global Civilization Initiative".

All countries who recognize "the Silk Road spirit" will be welcomed, it says.

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