The 4th ECO Ministerial Meeting on Tourism on December 13, 2022 was chaired and hosted by the Ministry of Tourism and Cultural Heritage of the Republic of Uzbekistan. Delegations from the Republic of Azerbaijan, the Islamic Republic of Iran, the Republic of Kazakhstan, the Kyrgyz Republic, the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, the Republic of Tajikistan, the Republic of Tأ¼rkiye, Turkmenistan, the Republic of Uzbekistan (Host) and the ECO Secretariat attended the Meetings. The 4th ECO Ministerial Meeting on Tourism was also attended by the delegations of the ECO Cultural Institute (ECI) and the Turkish Cypriot State as an observer.
Inaugurating the event, the Honourable Deputy Prime Minister as well as Minister of Tourism and Cultural Heritage of Uzbekistan H.E. Mr. Aziz Abdukhakimov briefed on the country’s tourism potential as well as activities and progress that the country had made for improving the sector and transforming it into a robust, effective and reliable tool to support the sustainable socioeconomic development in Uzbekistan. He added that the Uzbek government is mainly focused on improving the countrywide tourism infrastructure, service quality and diversity. Tourism serves as one of the main growth-catalyzer and the strongest bridge that unites peoples of various regions through exchange and sharing traditional norms, cultural legacies as well as other values, he noted. In addition, he invited the Member to attend the 25th Session of the General Assembly of the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) to be held at Samarkand in 2023.
Addressing the meeting, the ECO Secretary General Ambassador Khusrav Noziri recalled that the ECO places tourism cooperation amongst the top priorities of its regional development agenda as envisaged in the Vision 2025. Commending the concept of Uzbekistan’s Chairmanship that declared the 2022 as the “Year of Strengthening Connectivity” in the region under the patronage of Excellency President Shavkat Mirziyoyev, he appreciated that the country organized and hosted several important events during its chairmanship. ECO region is home to 74 UNESCO registered World Heritage Sites and has diverse tourism potential, he noted, adding that the accessibility to ECO by other regions is the pre-requisite for sustainable development of regional tourism industry. In this regard, he highlighted the significance of all modes of connectivity to help build strong connectivity of the region with rest of the globe, providing comfortable, cheaper and safe travelling. Besides, he enunciated that a joint tourism programme is very much important to portray a competitive image of the region as an attractive destination for global tourists, underlining that simplification of border crossing procedures and liberalization of visa regimes for foreign tourists, development and implementation of harmonized service quality and environmental standards aligned with international best practices will support the development of regional tourism industry.
During the meeting, other Heads of Delegations, including Iran, Pakistan and Tajikistan also made speeches and presentations, summarizing their national policies and programs as well as interactive regional and global events and engagements with regard to the promotion of tourism sector.
The meeting adopted Road Map on Facilitating Accelerated Recovery, Safe and Sustainable Development of Tourism after COVID-19 in the ECO region as a post-COVID general framework for cooperation among the Member States and selected the Shakhrisabz and Erzurum cities of Uzbekistan and Türkiye as the ECO Tourism Capitals for 2024 and 2025, respectively. Moreover, the meeting adopted the Samarkand Declaration on Tourism Cooperation. The 5th ECO Ministerial Meeting on Tourism will be hosted by the Islamic Republic of Iran in May or June 2023 in Ardabil.