The Silk Road – tourists beat the road to hidden treasures

The Silk Road is a network of roads which used to contain vital trade and cultural exchange links between the East and the West, from Istanbul to Beijing. The Silk Road was a place for cultures, crafts, ideas, technologies and beliefs. Over the centuries the road was used by both traders, missionaries and officials. A rich cultural heritage is visible to the tourists.

Supported by the World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) a large number of countries along the route have started a collaboration in order to develop and promote these treasures. However, this is not only about observing relics of ancient cultures. There are many issues raised in terms of capacity building in countries with limited tradition for serving tourist. The 5th International Meeting on the Silk Road in 2010 adopted many practical suggestions for capacity building and boosting the Silk Road brand and its development into a consolidated tourism product. Accoarding to UNWTO further work includes:

  • “Research on source markets, market segmentation and ‘unique selling points’ of each member state and region.
  • Development of joint projects across member states to promote the Silk Road brand.
  • Creation of a task force made up of national tourism administrations, UN organisations and the private sector.
  • Development of ‘authentic experiences’ – here the meeting noted practical examples of ‘home-stay’ programmes and support for local products and sustainable product development.
  • Investment in capacity building including guide and language training, as well as the ability of guides to work across borders.
  • Finance and the development of infrastructure – the meeting noted practical examples from Kazakhstan on this subject.
  • Infrastructure – the development of a high-speed rail network in Uzbekistan and the development of tourist centres was offered as a prime example of projects that will take the Silk Road initiative forward.
  • There should be urgent examination of all ways to facilitate cross border travel between the Silk Road states particularly with regard to the issue of visas.”

 The places that tourists are offered to travel through are not smooth and well-prepared, and that appeals to the more adventurous categories of tourists. In terms of inaugurating the collaboration in Azerbajian, an event was organized in September 2010 by the Ministry of Culture and Tourism of Azerbaijan and off-club “Club 4×4”, a rally clubs. One of the objectives of the project was to research country’s tourism potentialities in order to create and popularize new tourist routes, and jointly these partners could create a media attention about the route and historical sites along it. The rally drivers come from around the world, and they offer extensive networks in clubs and organizations back home.
The rally ranged from the Gubin region to Shamakhin. On 12 cars the rally participants traversed the summits of the Greater Caucasus mountain range, impassable mountain terrains and rapid rivers. En route the rally participants visited the ancient ruins of Shabran settlement. Comments from the participant were found helpful for the development of the project, and in that sense the event was not only a promotional step, but also a case of user-driven innovation.

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