The rapid growth of cultural tourism is undeniably evident, and this, according to the UNWTO Secretary-General Taleb Rifai, “comes with increased responsibility to protect our cultural and natural assets, the very foundation of our societies and our civilizations”.Major stakeholders at the just concluded2nd UNWTO/UNESCO World Conference on Tourism and Culture Muscat, held in the capital city of the Sultanate of Oman on 11th-12th December 2017, reaffirmed to build and strengthen partnerships between the tourism and culture sectors and enhance their role in the UN’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. This, under the Muscat Declaration on Tourism and Culture: Fostering Sustainable Development.
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;
Under this commitment, five underlying pointers are listed among them promoting the engagement of local communities and the private sector in developing cultural tourism and preserving cultural heritage. It also emphasizes on the need to promote a culture of respect among tourists and local communities, when visiting sites and destinations for purposes of sustainable cultural tourism.
Enhance the role of tourism and culture in peace building and heritage protection, especially in conflict affected areas;
Culture and tourism are vital components to peaceful co-existence not only at the local level, but also at the regional and international levels. It is therefore important to raise awareness on the processes and impacts of sustainable cultural tourism on security, peace-building, and reconciliation by enabling it to strengthen cross-border travel and global citizenship, encourage visits to peace-related sites, as well as religious tourism.“Tourism 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 at the conference, on behalf of UNESCO Director-General, Audrey Azoulay.
Promote responsible and sustainable tourism management of cultural heritage;
The declaration emphasizes on promoting responsible and sustainable tourism management at World Heritage sites; as well as safeguarding intangible heritage, which is crucial in maintaining the allure of tourism destinations.
Encourage a creative and innovative approach for sustainable urban development through cultural tourism;
Coming at an era when digitization is at the heart of every development, the Muscat declaration underscores the use of new technologies and innovation to support development;particularly in terms of entrepreneurship and job creation, as well as fostering creative business opportunities in cultural tourism.
Explore the inter-linkages between culture and nature in sustainable tourism.
Finally, under the fifth commitment,developing and promoting cultural tourism programmes to support sustainable development of cultural tourism in rural areas, particularly by supporting local SMEs; is among four of the stated obligations.