On 3 September 2019, SCO Secretary-General Vladimir Norov spoke at the 8th summit of the World Tourism Cities Federation (WTCF) in Helsinki.
Mr Norov said that today, cities are beginning to play an increasingly important role in the tourism industry: "The world has become more accessible for tourist trips, and cities have become centres of attraction for millions of travellers. The established links between cities, countries, regions and continents have multiplied tourist flows."
The SCO Secretary-General emphasised that tourism was becoming one of the key factors of socio-economic progress: "More countries are regarding the development of tourism as an important segment of the national economy and a strategic factor in the improvement of the country's competitiveness."
Mr Norov drew the attention of the audience to the Programme for the Development of Cooperation between the SCO Member Countries in Tourism and a relevant Action Plan for 2019-2020, which are the bedrock for developing measures to improve security, infrastructure and quality of tourist services, attract investment and introduce contemporary information technology in this sector. "Work is underway to expand and improve transport connections and ease visa regimes between the member states, to encourage youth tourism as well as to create and promote trans-border and interregional tourist routes, including in the countries located along the Great Silk Road," Mr Norov added.
He also mentioned the Eight Wonders of the SCO project aimed at creating a common tourism space in all member countries.
The SCO Secretary-General added that in order to develop tourism and intercultural relations in and beyond the SCO space, close cooperation has been established with UNESCO and the UN World Tourism Organisation in accordance with relevant memorandums of cooperation.
Vladimir Norov also noted the importance of the further interaction between the SCO Secretariat and the WTCF within their cooperation agreement. "At the moment, 43 cities out of the 141 members of the federation are part of the SCO family, and we hope that this number will increase with more SCO cities being accepted as federation members. I am confident that in the coming years their number and popularity will grow," he noted.
Reports were also delivered by Helsinki Mayor Jan Vapaavuori, UNWTO Executive Director Zhu Shanzhong, Beijing Vice-Mayor and Deputy Chair of the WTCF Wang Hong, Mayor of Tallinn Mihhail Kolvart, WTCF Secretary-General Song Yu, and WTCF expert, professor Li Yunpeng, who presented a global report on intellectual tourism in cities.
The summit brought together about 500 participants, including heads of administration of WTCF member cities, international organisations, research institutions and businesses.
The international platform provided its participants an opportunity to exchange opinions on building cooperation in tourism, improving city infrastructure, developing hospitality business and introducing contemporary information technology in the tourism sector.
On the sidelines of the summit, the SCO Secretariat set up another exhibition named the Eight Wonders of the SCO, featuring photos, video clips and brochures about the landmarks, nature and customs of the SCO member states.
The WTCF is a non-governmental international organisation. It was established in September 2012 at the initiative of the Beijing City Hall. The WTCF headquarters are located in the Chinese capital. The federation has 218 members, including 145 member cities, 73 tourist organisations and companies. The federation strives to provide its members with services spanning the entire tourism chain, as well as promoting experience of the development of tourist cities, tourism products and resources, and the growth of the tourism industry in general.