Delegates from over 15 countries and representatives of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the World Federation of Tourist Guides Associations, gathered around the 3rd meeting of the Task Force of the Silk Road Task Force on 22-23 April, Baku, Republic of Azerbaijan.

The strong link between sustainable tourism and the rich cultural heritage of the Silk Road was a major talking point during the meeting, which agreed on a range of actions to strengthen the Silk Road Programme.

Millions of cross border visits take place between the Silk Road countries, and a clear need has been identified to promote new sustainable tourism products, focusing on three pillars: marketing and promotion, capacity building, and travel facilitation

“Being part of the Silk Road offers destinations a unique opportunity to leverage collaboration on these key areas”, said UNWTO Secretary-General, Taleb Rifai, in greeting the Task Force Meeting. “This meeting will enhance cooperation between the countries along the Silk Road, raise the profile of Silk Road tourism and contribute to drive sustainable and responsible development along this amazing route”, he added.

During the meeting, the delegates developed a range of creative ideas including the vision of a Silk Road Festival, interactive portal and the concept of creating a Silk Road Tourism Partnership, aimed at promoting the world’s longest trade and culture route.

UNWTO took the opportunity of the event to present a plaque in recognition of the Minister of Culture and Tourism of Azerbaijan, Abulfaz Garayev, for his 12 outstanding years of service. Minister Garayev is one of the world's longest serving tourism ministers and a passionate ambassador for the Silk Road.

The consolidated outcomes of the Task Force Meeting will be will report to the 6th International meeting of the Silk Road Programme to be held in China on 1-3 August 2013.