DELEGATES who attended the UNWTO International Seminar on Harnessing Cultural Tourism through innovation and the 40th Affiliate Members plenary session renewed call for community participation in the development of cultural tourism using cutting-edge technologies.
Speaking at the seminar’s opening event in Hamedan in Iran, UNWTO Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili said ICT can help preserve heritage resources.
“Technology and innovation, including ICT, can improve the quality of the tourist experience. It can improve governance, profits and the wellbeing of residents. And it can preserve intangible and tangible heritage resources for the sustainable development of cultural tourism,” he said.
According to the seminar, cultural and heritage attractions are key to tourism development in many countries around the world, and innovation and technology can make these attractions more accessible while preserving their essence.
It also stressed that innovation and technology should empower, rather than disenfranchise, host populations and communities and can assist them in retaining their authenticity, while cultural heritage development and preservation should be a part of local and national plans for socio-economic development through tourism and technology.
Speaking at the same occasion Iranian Vice-President Ali Asghar Mounesan who also heads the Iran Cultural Heritage, Handcraft and Tourism Organization (ICHTO) said there is need to ensure both host and guests benefit from tourism.
“The world’s diverse range of culture and heritage form the best means and ways to connect peoples of the world – but only if the rights and privileges of both host and guest populations are respected and responded to. And innovation and technology can help,” he said.
Meanwhile, the seminar also agreed that informed governance and policies surrounding uptake of new technologies and innovative practices can guide tourism development and open doors for the sector, with conservation and revitalization of cultural heritage one of its main benefits.
It also highlighted that for tourism authorities, the participation of, and collaboration with, the host community should be a driver for technology-driven change.
It was urged that tourism development not only maximize benefits and minimize costs for greater competitiveness, but also respond to the expectations and needs of hosts and guests alike.
The seminar was organized by UNWTO, ICHTO and Alisadr Tourism Company. Alongside it, Hamedan played host to the UNWTO Affiliate Members’ 40th plenary, in which active discussions were held as UNWTO’s Affiliate Members voiced their opinions and suggestions on the Affiliate Members Department’s Programme of Work for 2019.