UNWTO’s Silk Road Initiative & the Phoenicians’ route: a pool of inspiration for Mediterranean Sustainable Tourism

Several countries of the Mediterranean basin are involved in the UNWTO (United Nations World Tourism Organization) Silk Road initiative, as well as in the Phoenicians’ route initiative, whose ideas and developments could constitute a pool of inspiration for the Sustainable Tourism Community.

(Rome, 22 March 2019) “UNWTO's Silk Road initiative functions as a collaborative platform designed to enhance sustainable tourism development along the historic Silk Road routes. The initiative aims to maximize the benefits of tourism development for local Silk Road communities, while stimulating investment and promoting the conservation of the route's natural and cultural heritage” explains in a nutshell what this initiative is about, in which several Mediterranean countries such as Albania, Greece, Italy and Spain, participating in projects of the MED Sustainable Tourism Community are also involved.


At the beginning of March, two fora of this initiative occurred in Berlin: the Silk Road Tour Operators Forum and the Silk Road Ministers Meeting. It was focused on the improvement of cooperation between tourism stakeholders, specifically those actively involved in cultural tourism routes. During such event, were discussed themes liked overtourism which puts pressure on the natural and cultural heritage of the destination, improvement of cultural and environmental management, stimulating investment in the sustainability of tourism, intercultural dialogue, cultural heritage education through virtual museums: as many issues as those on which the Sustainable Tourism Community is working on through different projects.


To only quote a few, these elements are addressed by projects such as HERIT-DATA aiming at developing innovative solutions to better manage tourism flows impact on cultural and natural heritage sites through technologies and big data. This also touches upon the activity of BLUEMED related to knowledge awareness centres, or ALTER ECO on the development of alternative tourist strategies to enhance the local sustainable development of tourism by promoting Mediterranean identity. This latter element is something that has been done also by the Western Silk Road Tourism Development initiative which was part of the Enhancing the Understanding of European Tourism project jointly developed by the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) and the Directorate-General for Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs (DG Grow) of the European Commission (EC); and is currently being undergone by the Phoenicians’ route initiative, under this UNWTO Silk Road initiative programme, presented last week during the above mentioned fora in Berlin.


“A permanent laboratory on new ways of travelling, communicating places, telling about the heritage and the relevance of its values” is how Dr. Antonio Barone, Director of the Phoenicians’ Route, Italy, defined the Phoenician route during his presentation and added that “it is a tool fostering the dialogue between tourism and culture, between environment and users, in mutual respect and in the optimisation of the balance costs and benefits for all the actors in the process”. To quote some measures developed by this initiative, we can name the national and regional tourism routes called “smart ways” and the development of ecomuseums, aimed at telling the place identity, the vision and the mission while sharing Mediterranean people stories. Also part of this initiative, Virtual Mediterranean Museum MeMuNet have been developed. These elements are mirroring some projects of the MED Sustainable Tourism Community previously mentioned such as the ALTER ECO’s developments of models for implementation of innovative tourism strategies or the BLUEMED’s visualisation in museums.


This idea of collaboration, exchange of good practices, elements and strategies to enhance the sustainability of tourism and establish transnational Mediterranean tourism routes could indeed constitute food for thought for the MED Sustainable Tourism Community in general.


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