China / Society

Silk Road country ministers team up in tourism push

By SU ZHOU (China Daily) Updated: 2015-06-20 07:45

Tourism ministers from Silk Road Economic Belt and Maritime Silk Road countries have vowed to build an integrated tourism market that would include linking sites in separate countries in tours and pushing for more convenient visa policies.

New initiatives to give further impetus to the tourism exchanges and cooperation along the Silk Road were outlined in the Xi'an Initiative, adopted on June 19 by the ministers at the Tourism Ministerial Meeting of Countries along the Silk Road Economic Belt.

The meeting was jointly hosted by World Tourism Organization, China National Tourism Administration and People's Government of Shaanxi Province.

Li Jinzao, director of CNTA and chairman of the meeting, said the initiative would be an important guideline for tourism cooperation among Silk Road countries.

"Nowadays, the new Silk Road is not only a trading route, but also a travel route with more than 500 world cultural heritage sites in the countries along the route," Li said. "However, issues regarding transportation, visa policies, marketing and security have as yet kept the Silk Road tourism market from reaching its full potential. Not even one-fifth of outbound Chinese tourists visited the Silk Road."

To unlock the tourism market's potential, ministers at the meeting called for more private sector participation, a unified marketing plan and framework, more airline or high-speed rail connections, and, most important, simpler visa policies along the Silk Road.

Arif Yahya, Indonesia's minister of tourism, underscored the importance of the visa policies, and he suggested that all member countries of the Silk Road Initiative support the development of tourism by further simplifying them.

Yahya said, Indonesia now has a visa-free policy for nationals of 45 countries, six of which are along the Silk Road.

Nayef Al Fayez, Jordan's minister of tourism and antiquities, suggested that Silk Road countries should market under the same brand, logo and website.

"We have more than 500 cultural heritage sites along the road, and we should market as a group to make them famous," the minister said. "Each country should identify its special character and recommend one place, so we can develop tourism routes with 'multiple stops on one trip'. This would boost the appeal of regional tourism products and promote sharing of tourist sources.

"We should also encourage our citizens to visit these heritage sites. And China, the largest source of outbound tourists, should take the lead and encourage more tourists to visit the Silk Road."

Lu Hongyan in Xi'an contributed to this story.

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