The 5th ECO Ministerial Meeting on Tourism, preceded by the High Level Expert Group (HLEG) Meeting was held on October 4-5, 2023 in Ardabil, Iran. The Ministers and high level representatives from the Member States, as well as the ECO Secretary General attended the meeting. The D-8 Secretary General Ambassador Isiaka Abdulqadir was invited to the event by the host country as a special guest.
The meeting was chaired by H.E. Mr. Ezzatollah Zarghami, Minister Cultural Heritage, Tourism and Handicrafts of the Islamic Republic of Iran. Honourable Minister, while welcoming the participants, stated that the ECO Member States should utilize their capacities in order to foster peace and solidarity, integration and regional cooperation in the areas of transportation, energy, trade and tourism. Honourable Minister emphasized that tourism industry had been acting as one of fast-growing economic sectors and had been the most significant pioneers of the economic growth in the world during recent years. Having national beauty, ethnic diversity, miscellaneous traditions and historical and cultural heritage, the ECO region has the potential to become a leading tourism destination in the world. In this context, he also highlighted the importance of the protection of the environment and cultural heritage sites.
The Minister expressed gratitude to the ECO Member States for selecting Ardabil as the ECO Tourism Capital for the year 2023, and noted that hosting current meeting in Ardabil is one of the significant consequences of the celebrations.
Addressing the meeting, the ECO Secretary General Ambassador Khusrav Noziri emphasized the importance of meeting to review the implementation of status of the agreements concluded during the 4th Ministerial Meeting on Tourism, along with revisiting tasks and activities defined within the Samarkand Declaration. He stressed that this Ministerial Forum is a significant event in terms of development and implementation of joint tourism projects and programs. The Secretary General further stated that the Ardabil Declaration would facilitate smooth execution of ECO’s policy based and action-oriented programs for ensuring regional activities at pre-pandemic level.
In addition, Ambassador Noziri mentioned that ECO is pursuing its cooperative relations with other regional and international tourism stakeholders and noted 25th Session of the General Assembly of the United Nations World Tourism Organization to be held in Samarkand, Uzbekistan on October 16-20, 2023. He added that this event would provide opportunities for collaboration in tourism sector and increase of the visibility of the ECO region.
During the meeting, heads of delegations from the ECO Member Countries delivered their statements, summarizing their national policies and ongoing tourism programs as well as engagements with regard to the promotion of tourism sector.
The meeting adopted the Ardabil Declaration outlining the areas for possible cooperation in tourism sector, and selected the city of Shusha in the Republic of Azerbaijan as the ECO Tourism Capital for 2026.