At the third UNWTO/UNESCO Global Conference on Tourism and Culture, held from 3 to 5 December 2018 in Istanbul, Turkey, participants declared their support for cultural tourism as a driver for safeguarding living heritage, catalysing creativity in cities, and spreading tourism’s socioeconomic benefits to all.
Organised with the support of the Ministry of Culture and Tourism of the Republic of Turkey under the theme ‘for the Benefit of All’, the conference explored the potential of the tourism and culture partnership, along with new trends in technology and visitor management, to bring the widest range of benefits to visitors and host communities while safeguarding cultural values.
“Tourism provides a tremendous opportunity to support local economic development, while breaking down barriers between people.” said UNESCO Deputy Director-General Xing Qu. “Harnessing creativity and technological innovation, as well as safeguarding heritage is essential for promoting responsible and sustainable tourism to support and unify communities for years to come.” During the technical sessions, perspectives and interests of local communities emerged as the single most important issue in considering cultural tourism policies and strategies in balancing tourism development with heritage conservation and safeguarding.
“Culture is one of the drivers of tourism growth, so protecting cultural heritage and promoting tourism for sustainable development are part of the same equation,” said UNWTO Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili.
In a discussion moderated by BBC’s journalist Rajan Datar, the more than 30 ministers present concluded that tourism and culture are indivisible and must work together so that tourism does not overwhelm cultural heritage and diversity, and benefits both visitors and locals.
The conference focused on cities’ essential contribution to making tourism culture-driven and inclusive, which in turn transforms cities into more sustainable and creative environments and destinations. It highlighted that the creative and cultural sectors, such as film, design, or music, provide cities with innovation in cultural tourism thereby benefitting all actors including visitors, operators and residents.
The conference also stressed the need to safeguard intangible cultural heritage, as well as the role of digital technology in enhancing the visitor experience and improving visitor management. The panel discussions determined that innovation needs strengthening for better management, promotion and preservation of heritage, as well as to make cultural tourism accessible to all.
A key output of the conference is the declaration outlining the cross-sector commitment of all participants to reinforce the tourism and culture partnership as an enabler for achieving the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda of the United Nations. The next edition of the conference takes place in Kyoto, Japan in 2019.