Over 800 participants from 70 countries gathered in Muscat, capital city of the Sultanate of Oman on 11-12 December 2017 for the Conference, an official event in the calendar of the International Year for Sustainable Tourism for Development 2017.
The Conference held under the patronage of H.H. Sayyid Fahd bin Mahmoud al-Said, Deputy Prime Minister for the Council of Ministers of Oman, brought together Ministers of Tourism and Ministers of Culture as well as private sector stakeholders and experts with the objective of building and strengthening partnerships between the tourism and culture sectors and enhance their role in the UN’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
The Muscat reaffirms the commitment to:
1. Strengthen the synergies between tourism and culture and advance the contribution of cultural tourism to the 2030 Agenda on Sustainable Development and the 17 SDGs;
2. Enhance the role of tourism and culture in peace building and heritage protection, especially in conflict affected areas;
3. Promote responsible and sustainable tourism management of cultural heritage;
4. Encourage a creative and innovative approach for sustainable urban development through cultural tourism; and
5. Explore the inter-linkages between culture and nature in sustainable tourism.
“The Sultanate of Oman is richly endowed with many diversified natural resources spread in all governorates of the country, in addition to a rich historic and cultural heritage, which dates back to many centuries in the history of humanity. Our main long term objective is to achieve economic diversification, together with upgrading the direct and indirect contribution of the sector in GDP, provision of direct and indirect employment opportunities for the national labour force, enhancing government revenues, supporting the balance of payments and achieve the highest level of regional development” said H.E. Ahmed Nasser Al Mahrizi, Minister of Tourism of Oman, opening the meeting.
“Two years ago we met in Cambodia for the First UNWTO/UNESCO Tourism and Culture Conference. Today am very pleased that we reassume this dialogue here in Muscat. A dialogue that should happen every day around the globe. Yet that often finds itself limited by us living in separate silos”, said UNWTO Secretary-General Taleb Rifai.
“With over 1.2 billion people now crossing international borders each year, tourism represents a golden opportunity to break down barriers of ignorance and prejudice. It plays an important role as a vehicle for inter-cultural dialogue and, ultimately, peace.”, said Francesco Bandarin, UNESCO Assistant Director-General on Culture, in his opening speech, on behalf of UNESCO Director-General, Audrey Azoulay.
“UNESCO and UNWTO are also united in our commitment to tackling the challenges of poverty and development through sustainable tourism.” he added.
On the occasion of the Conference, H.E. Ms. Eliza Jean Reid, First Lady of Iceland, was officially appointed the UNWTO Secretary-General as Special Ambassador for Tourism and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). UNWTO launched the Special Ambassadors for Tourism and the SDGs Programme as a legacy of the International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development 2017.
The Conference initiated with a Ministerial Dialogue moderated by John Defterios from CNN International, focusing on policy and governance frameworks between tourism and culture to support responsible, culturally-aware, and inclusive tourism that contribute to the socio-economic development of host communities, promote cross-cultural exchanges, and generate resources for the safeguarding of tangible and intangible heritage.
A Special Ministerial Dialogue addressed the role of cultural tourism as a factor of peace and prosperity. Ministers from Cambodia, Libya, Somalia, Iraq and Vietnam shared views on the capacity of tourism to support the recovery of their countries.
The technical sessions focused on tourism development and protection of cultural heritage and promoting responsible and sustainable tourism management at World Heritage sites, culture and tourism in urban development and creativity and the relevance of cultural landscapes in tourism and the integration of natural and cultural heritage philosophies and procedures for sustainable tourism development.
Istanbul (Turkey) and Kyoto (Japan) will host the 2018 and 2019 editions of the UNWTO / UNESCO World Conference on Tourism and Culture.