PARTICIPANTS at the 3rd Cultural Tourism Conference have declared their support for cultural tourism as a driver for safeguarding living heritage, catalysing creativity in cities, and spreading tourism’s socioeconomic benefits to all.
The conference was held from the 3-5th of December in Istanbul, Turkey was jointly organised by UNWTO and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).
Delegates concluded that there was a need for a clear and strong link between tourism, culture and local community stakeholders.
They said cultural tourism policies and strategies must consider the perspectives and interests of local communities, who can also assist governance bodies in balancing tourism development with heritage conservation and safeguarding. Channelling tourism revenues into cultural preservation and community development was identified as a key governance challenge.
Speaking at the official opening of the conference, UNWTO secretary-general Zurab Pololikashvili said “culture is one of the drivers of tourism growth, so protecting cultural heritage and promoting tourism for sustainable development are part of the same equation.
“That 30-plus ministers from around the world are gathered here proves the place of culture in tourism,” he said.
Pololikashvili sentiments were echoed by Turkey’s Culture and Tourism Minister Mehmet Ersoy who said: “the culture and tourism partnership provides a framework for public-private cooperation, education, investments and sustainability”.
UNESCO deputy director-general Xing Qu said safeguarding heritage is essential for promoting responsible tourism
“Tourism provides a tremendous opportunity to support local economic development while breaking down barriers between people.
“Harnessing creativity and technological innovation, as well as safeguarding heritage is essential for promoting responsible and sustainable tourism to support and unify communities for years to come,” he said.
The President of Malta Marie-Louise Coleiro Preca also addressed the delegates adding that culture is of great importance in achieving tourism diplomacy which is important to foster understanding
The first session of the conference focused on cultural tourism’s potential to help cities transform into more sustainable and creative environments and destinations.
It ended in agreement that the creative and cultural sectors can strengthen and provide innovation in cultural tourism, forging links that turn tourism into a tool to safeguard tangible and intangible cultural heritage.
In a debate moderated by the BBC’s Rajan Datar, the more than 30 ministers present concluded that tourism and culture are indivisible and must work together so that tourism does not suffocate cultural heritage and its benefits for visitors and locals.
However, the main challenge is to spread cultural tourism’s attractiveness beyond established sites whilst managing large visitor numbers.-