Meeting of the Tourism Administrations Heads of SCO Member States

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On 22 May 2020, Zarina Doguzova, Head of the Federal Agency for Tourism under the Russian Economic Development Ministry, chaired a videoconference of the Tourism Administrations Heads of SCO Member States. The meeting was attended by SCO Secretary-General Vladimir Norov.

He thanked Russia for organising the meeting and cited conclusions by experts at the World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) and the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), who believe that the industries hit the hardest by the coronavirus infection include tourism and the sectors that are closely connected with it, namely the hotel, restaurant, entertainment and transportation businesses. The tourism industry will only really start functioning properly again after the quarantine and other restrictions on the freedom of movement and economic operation are lifted against the background of the strict security and health measures in the SCO countries.

The SCO member states have adopted and are implementing, with due regard for their economic conditions and available capabilities, various support measures for the economy and the hardest hit sectors, such as tourism, transportation and the hotel business.

The SCO Secretary-General also noted that the SCO Secretariat together with the member states was implementing the SCO Our Common Home programme, which includes culture days of SCO member states, national holidays, symposia, conferences and roundtable meetings.

Vladimir Norov added that the SCO Secretariat, seeking to promote national tourism brands, had prepared a concept of events for the Eight Wonders of the SCO project aimed at demonstrating the member states' cultural diversity and tourism potential, which have been a great success in many countries.

The SCO Secretary-General explained that despite the coronavirus pandemic the SCO had the potential to become a global economic centre in the near future, which would greatly benefit the tourism industry.

Vladimir Norov said that the tourism industry could and must become the driver of economic rehabilitation to the pre-pandemic level and subsequent growth. The pandemic has created for many countries a great deal of problems in various spheres. At the same time, new opportunities have emerged in the ICT sphere. Vladimir Norov cited the example of China, which has reported major achievements in the sphere of public-private partnership (PPP), including in the tourism industry. Alibaba and other companies have created platforms based on cutting-edge technology, such as big data and artificial intelligence, for the provision of contactless services, virtual tours and cloud exhibitions aimed at reducing operating costs and exchanging tourism experience, plus enhancing the capability to provide quality services and to flexibly respond to emergencies such as the coronavirus epidemic. Information technology and innovations can also be used to create a fundamentally new tourism environment and to improve the development standards of the SCO countries' tourism industries.

The SCO Secretary-General expressed the hope that the adoption and implementation of the Draft Joint Action Plan to Implement the Programme for the Development of Cooperation among SCO Member States in the Tourism Sector for 2021-2022 would boost collaboration, because the document sets out clear goals and tasks, the main spheres of cooperation, timeframes and the desired results.

The participants noted the positive development of tourism cooperation in the period under review, exchanged information regarding the national tourism markets and the measures being taken to use the development potential of the tourism industry, as well as discussed the joint measures to promote tourist exchanges within the organisation.
They also agreed to provide mutual assistance and support to overcoming the consequences of the COVID-19 epidemic in the SCO countries' tourism industries.

The heads of the delegations discussed and approved the Draft Joint Action Plan to Implement the Programme for the Development of Cooperation among SCO Member States in the Tourism Sector for 2021-2022 and decided that the document should be submitted in accordance with the established procedure to the next SCO summit.

It was pointed out that the implementation of the programme would attract more tourists to the SCO countries, improve their economies, create new jobs, expand the market for local goods, create conditions for attracting investment, boost the revival of national cultures and traditions, promote interstate cultural and economic ties, plus create conditions for the further development of engineering and transport infrastructure.

The meeting was held in a business constructive atmosphere based on friendship, mutual trust and understanding.

The 21 May 2020 Meeting of Experts to Prepare for the Meeting of Tourism Administrations Heads of the SCO Member States was attended by SCO Deputy Secretary-General Sherali Saidamir Jonon and Senior Expert at the SCO Secretariat Muratbek Azymbakiev.