The Fourth Summit of the Turkic Council was dedicated to the theme of “Tourism Cooperation”.
The Ministers in charge of Tourism Affairs have held four meetings so far. The “Joint Cooperation Protocol on Tourism Cooperation among the Member States” and the “Cooperation Protocol among the Private Sector Umbrella Institutions of the Member States” in tourism sector were signed respectively at the first and second ministerial meetings. The 3rd ministerial meeting was held in June 2016 in Cholpon Ata, Kyrgyzstan with the participation of Secretary General of the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO). At the meeting, the tour operators of the Member States involved in the Turkic Council Modern Silk Road Join Tour Package project signed “the Code of Ethics of the UNWTO”. The 4th Meeting of the Ministers in Charge of Tourism of the Turkic Council took place in August 2018 in Astana where the Ministers praised the successful implementation and promotion of the Modern Silk Road Joint Tour Package considered a landmark project for creating alternative destinations for cultural tourism in accordance with new tourism trends in the world. They expressed their full support to further promote this project with all possible means and adopted the marketing strategy and promotional activities for the period 2019-2020.
The Working Group on tourism has been convened 12 times so far. The representatives of the private sector of the Member States are taking an active part in the field of tourism since the 4th Working Group Meeting. Preparation of the Turkic Council Modern Silk Road Joint Tour Package, as a pilot project, is one of the important agenda items in this cooperation area. The destination of the Tour Package was approved at the second ministerial meeting. The Consortium comprising the tour operators from the Member States that will implement the Joint Tour Package was established at 7th Meeting of the Working Group in March 2016 in Shymkent through the signing of the MoU in this direction. The field visits to Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan to make feasibility analysis of the Joint Tour Package were carried out in 2015 and 2016. The brochure and promotional video of the package have been prepared as well.
Following the Special Meeting of Turkic Council Working Group on Tourism taken place on 8 April 2017 in Almaty the Tour Package marked an important step in its realization. At the said meeting, the tour operators deliberated on the financial details of the projects and discussed the fam trips that were held on 21 April-5 May 2017 and 12 May-26 May 2017. Prominent journalists, representatives of international tour operator companies, renowned bloggers and experts in the field took part in the said fam trip with a view to highlight the project in the third countries. The Promotion Fund of the Republic of Turkey supported the said fam trips, while Turkish Airlines is the official sponsor for the transportation of the tours. Air Astana is also one of the sponsors of the tours.
The joint tour package that is considered as a best practice to attain Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and to boost South-South cooperation is ready to be experienced by the tourist from the Turkic Speaking States and all over the world. The Secretariat prepared the website of the package (www.modernsilkroadtour.com).
In this direction, it is also noteworthy that the cover page of 2018 April issue of the Turkish Airlines Skylife Magazine was devoted to this joint tour package with a 10-page article representing the Silk Road heritage in our Member States.
In the meantime, the Secretariat continues its efforts to promote the Tour Package at the national and international tourism fairs and exhibitions (e.g. FITUR in Spain, EMITT in Istanbul and New York Times Travel Show in USA). At the same time, a comprehensive presentation was made at the 8th UNWTO Silk Road Task Force Meeting and the 6th Meeting of the OIC/COMCEC Private Sector Tourism Forum hosted by the Ministry of Culture and Tourism of the Republic of Turkey respectively on 26-27 April 2018 in Kayseri and on 8 March 2018 in Istanbul. A similar presentation was also realized during the UNOSSC conference themed “Investing in the Sustainable Development Goals through South-South and Triangular Cooperation” held on 15 May 2018 in Prague.
The Joint Photo Exhibitions of the Member States along the tradition Silk Road constitutes another significant agenda item. 5 joint photo exhibitions showcasing the Silk Road heritage in the Member States have been realized so far. The last photo exhibition was realized out on the margins of the Global South-South Development (GSSD) EXPO 2017 held on 27-30 November 2017 in Antalya where the Turkic Council was one of the implementing partners of the said global event.
Carrying out joint vocational trainings presents the cornerstone of cooperation among the Member States in the field of tourism. With the facilitation of the Secretariat, the Ministry of Culture and Tourism of the Republic of Turkey carried out vocational training programs on service sector for tourism employees of the other Member States in coordination with relevant Ministries and tourism associations. Several universities and hotels in the target Member States also involved in these vocational trainings. In the course of 2014-2017, more than 1000 tourism employees in Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan were trained and 50% were women. This capacity building initiative became subject to the several UN reports with its consideration as a best practice for the achievement of SDGs. The trainings will continue also targeting the tourist guides in Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan.
Starting from 2015, the Turkic Council deepens its relations with the UNWTO based on the “Memorandum of Understanding for Cooperation between the Two Organizations” signed between the two organizations in June 2015 in Madrid. The document constitutes the first MoU signed between the Turkic Council and a UN specialized body.
In compliance with the MoU, the two parties participate in each other’s relevant activities and join their hands with a view to promote Silk Road tourism. As a result, throughout 2016, Secretaries General of both organizations came together to discuss new avenues for further cooperation. Secretary General regularly participated in the UNWTO Silk Road Ministerial Meetings taking place each year in March on the margins of International Tourism Fair-ITB Berlin in Germany. Secretary General also attended the opening ceremony entitled the “World Conference on Tourism and Future Energy: Unlocking Low-carbon Growth Opportunities” organized on 26 June 2017 in Astana by the Astana EXPO 2017 and UN World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) with the support of the Ministry of Culture and Sports of Kazakhstan as a part of the celebrations of 2017 International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development. Furthermore, he also regularly attended the International Tourism Fair (FITUR) and the UNWTO Ministerial events on its sidelines.