23 November 2021 the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) and the Council of Europe signed a historic Memorandum of cooperation for development and enhancement of cultural routes.
The organisations aim to build up opportunities which tourism offers to local communities and to augment the tourist experience along the European cultural routes. The joint actions will be focused on sustainable tourism development along the routes, heritage safeguarding and intercultural dialogue. The collaboration will also further highlight the routes’ potential for advancing social, economic and cultural development.
UNWTO Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili said: “All along the Cultural Routes, tourism has the power to support jobs and create other development opportunities for communities. It is also a chance to protect and promote cultural heritage and to celebrate creativity.”
Council of Europe Secretary General Marija Pejčinović Burić adds: “The Cultural Routes programme plays an important role in the promotion of Europe’s rich cultural heritage, in addition to being an effective tool for fostering intercultural dialogue and transnational co-operation. We are delighted that the UN’s World Tourism Organisation will contribute its expertise to the Cultural Routes programme on the basis of this Memorandum of Understanding.”
The organisations will be collaborating to showcase cultural routes’ best practices for International Year of Creative Economy 2021, promotion of the routes in the Member States and enhancement of accessibility for persons with disabilities and specific access requirements.
The Council of Europe has been developing the cultural routes programme since 1987, promoting the intercultural and inter-religious dialogue, understanding and shared identity by the means of a journey and cultural discovery. The label “Cultural Route of the Council of Europe” has been granted to 45 itineraries and networks, including rurAllure partners and pilot participants, such as Via Francigena, Saint Olav Ways, St James’ Ways and Via Romea Germanica. Via Romea Strata and the Way of Mary, contributors to the Pilots on the Ways to Rome and the natural heritage on the Way of Mary are candidates for this certification.
The UNWTO has been involved into a series of projects focused on the cultural routes development, such as its work on the Western Silk Road, development of tourism product along the Phoenicians’ route and the Global Report on Cultural Routes and Itineraries.
The important cooperation between the UNWTO and the Council of Europe strengthens the efforts of projects such as rurAllure, which aims at developing rural areas next to the pilgrimage ways via their cultural assets, providing best practices of sustainable tourism and values of the cultural routes.
In the picture below: Council of Europe Secretary General Marija Pejčinović Burić (on the left) and the UNWTO Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili (on the right)