India moots action plan to mark 2023 as year of tourism development at SCO meet

India mooted an action plan to mark 2023 as the year of tourism development in the SCO (Shanghai Cooperation Organisation) region at the tourism ministers’ conference in Varanasi on Friday. While Lu Ying Chuan, Deputy Minister of Culture and Tourism from China, attended physically, representatives from Russia and Pakistan joined the meeting virtually, said a statement by the Ministry of Tourism on Friday.

Union Tourism Minister G Kishan Reddy chaired the meeting, attended by Yerzhan Yerkinbayev, Vice-Minister of Culture and Sports, Kazakhstan; Samat Bekturovich Shatmanov, Deputy Minister of Culture, Kyrgyzstan; and Azamov Ulugbek Axmatovich, First Deputy Minister of Culture and Tourism, Uzbekistan; even as Vladimir Evgenyvich Ilyichev, Deputy Minister of Economic Development, Russia; Muminzod Kamoliddin, Chairman of the Tourism Development Committee, Tajikistan; and Aun Chaudhry, Adviser to the Prime Minister on Tourism and Sports, Pakistan, attended virtually.

The meeting was also attended by senior officials from departments of tourism from the SCO member countries, besides representatives from the SCO Secretariat, Ministry of Tourism and Ministry of External Affairs, said the statement.

At the end of the meeting, a joint action plan for implementing the agreement between the Member States on cooperation in the tourism sector was finalised and approved. It comprises promotion of the SCO tourism brand, promotion of the cultural heritage of member states; sharing of information and digital technologies in tourism; and promotion of mutual cooperation in medical and health tourism.

The member countries will also undertake various activities jointly, such as SCO tourism exhibition, SCO Food Festival, webinars and seminars on tourism, conference and expert sessions on promotion of tourism in the region.

The meeting also adopted the Action Plan for ‘Year of Tourism Development in the SCO Space in 2023’. The document identifies a list of activities and events to promote and showcase tourism products of SCO member states. The meeting was preceded by two expert working group meetings held under Chairmanship of India – the first one was held online in January, while the second in physical mode on March 14-15 in Varanasi, the ministry says.

Interestingly, Kashi has been declared as the first tourism and cultural capital of SCO. Officials say the recognition will bring the city to a greater prominence in the global tourist map. The initiative will highlight the spiritual, mystic and knowledge aspects of Kashi, they added. The next meeting of the SCO Heads of Tourism Administrations will be held in Kazakhstan in 2024.

Four bilateral meetings of India with China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyz Republic and Uzbekistan were also held on the sidelines.