2017 for UNESCO – the International Year of Sustainable Tourism

27 January 2017

The United Nations has proclaimed 2017 as the International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development, in recognition of the tremendous potential of the tourism industry, which accounts for some 10% of the world’s economic activity, to contribute to the fight against poverty and foster mutual understanding and intercultural dialogue, which are at the heart of UNESCO’s mission.

These objectives have long been recognized by UNESCO’s various cultural and scientific programmes, notably the World Heritage programme which has long been working to ensure that the tourists who visit its 1,052 natural and cultural sites benefit local communities and that visitor flows are managed in ways that are compatible with heritage conservation.

The importance of international tourism in fostering better understanding among peoples everywhere, in leading to a greater awareness of the rich heritage of various civilizations, thereby contributing to the strengthening of peace in the world.

Irina Bokova, Director-General of UNESCO

It is well known that the Central Asian region is famous for its cultural and natural heritage, and, in this regard, UNESCO Cluster Office in Almaty promotes and develops tourism in the cluster countries, namely Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan, where the 15 World heritage properties are located. Some of them combine a group of cultural monuments and special protected areas, national parks and natural reserves. As such, in 2014 for the first time the segment of the Silk Road, which consists of 33 sites nominated as the "Silk Road: route network Changan Tian-Shan corridor" by Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and China was inscribed to the UNESCO World Heritage List. And in 2016, another transnational nomination "Western Tien Shan", which combines the natural heritage sites on the territory of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan was inscribed to the UNESCO World Heritage List.

The uniqueness of such objects lays in their transnational location, as the tourist routes are being lined up along the cross-country (or sometimes sub-regional) itineraries, which helps to realize one of the ideas of sustainable tourism that educates youth to a careful attitude towards cultural heritage and nature.

Thus, UNESCO encourages its Member States to develop the infrastructure at the existing and potential tourist properties and to help its tourism industry to reach a new level.

A key goal of the UNESCO World Heritage and Sustainable Tourism Programme is to strengthen the enabling environment by advocating policies and frameworks that support sustainable tourism as an important vehicle for managing cultural and natural heritage. Developing strategies through broad stakeholder engagement for the planning, development and management of sustainable tourism that follows a destination approach and focuses on empowering local communities is the central to UNESCO’s approach.

Well-designed and well-managed tourism can also contribute significantly to the sustainable development of the 119 designated UNESCO Global Geoparks in 33 countries, spectacular sites that teach us about the history of our planet. Likewise, UNESCO’s Man and the Biosphere (MAB) Programme with its 669 sites in 120 countries has been a pioneering laboratory for sustainability since it was set up to foster economic development that is mindful of the need to preserve the environment and natural resources.

Tourism is driven by the forces of globalization that have led to a tremendous growth in the circulation of goods and ideas, people and cultural trends. It can be channeled in ways that allow visitors to enjoy and learn from the wealth of cultural heritage and practices. It helps local cultural industries find new audiences, as well as markets, for their goods and services.

Nothing else, but development and awareness-raising of the importance of domestic tourism in Central Asia will help to better understand the history, to develop the sense of patriotism and respect for the cultures and peoples of the region. The sustainable tourism is a locomotive of conservation and promotion of our common heritage.

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