The World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO)’s International Seminar on Harnessing Cultural Tourism through Innovation and Technology and 40th Affiliate Members Plenary Session concluded with a renewed call for community participation in development of cultural tourism using cutting-edge technologies (12-14 November 2018, Hamedan, Islamic Republic of Iran).
Cultural and heritage attractions are key to tourism development in many countries around the world, and innovation and technology can make these attractions more accessible while preserving their essence, the seminar concluded. It also stressed that innovation and technology should empower, rather than disenfranchise, host populations and communities and can assist them in retaining their authenticity, while cultural heritage development and preservation should be a part of local and national plans for socioeconomic development through tourism and technology.
“Technology and innovation, including ICT, can improve the quality of the tourist experience. It can improve governance, profits and the wellbeing of residents. And it can preserve intangible and tangible heritage resources for the sustainable development of cultural tourism,” said UNWTO Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili opening the event.
“The world’s diverse range of culture and heritage form the best means and ways to connect peoples of the world – but only if the rights and privileges of both host and guest populations are respected and responded to. And innovation and technology can help”, added Iranian Vice-President Ali Asghar Mounesan, who also heads the Iran Cultural Heritage, Handcraft and Tourism Organisation (ICHTO).
The seminar agreed that informed governance and policies surrounding uptake of new technologies and innovative practices can guide tourism development and open doors for the sector, with conservation and revitalisation of cultural heritage one of its main benefits. It also highlighted that for tourism authorities, participation of, and collaboration with, the host community should be a driver for technology-driven change. It was urged that tourism development not only maximise benefits and minimise costs for greater competitiveness, but also respond to the expectations and needs of hosts and guests alike.
The seminar was organised by UNWTO, ICHTO and Alisadr Tourism Company. Alongside it, Hamedan played host to the UNWTO Affiliate Members’ 40th plenary, in which active discussions were held as UNWTO’s Affiliate Members voiced their opinions and suggestions on the Affiliate Members Department’s Programme of Work for 2019.