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Transport Bottleneck Curbs Tourism along Silk Road


It was once the main route for goods and people across Asia and into Europe, but international experts in development are now lamenting the inadequate transport links on the centuries-old Silk Road.

The lack of sufficient transport between China and Central Asia, especially air links, has become an obstacle to tourism development along the Silk Road, according to the United Nations Development Program. "The air links between cities in Central Asia and those in China (that are located on the Silk Road) are not many," Khalid Malik, UN coordinator and UNDP resident representative in China said on the second Silk Road Mayors Forum in Lanzhou , capital of northwest China's Gansu Province . "We are starting to deal with it and it is not hard to change," he said. The UNDP would try to bring together civil aviation officials and airlines from China and Central Asian countries and help them reach concrete deals to increase air links, he said. More than 100 million Chinese would travel abroad each year by 2020, said Malik. Tourism was generating enormous opportunities as it had become larger than the steel and oil sectors. Besides the traffic hurdle, poor tourism infrastructure, including hotels, lack of foreign investment, and difficulty in getting visas, also hindered tourism growth in the cities along the Silk Road, Malik added. His concerns were echoed by Zhou Aiquan, chief of the tourism bureau of Xi'an, the starting point of the 2,100-year-old Silk Road. The ancient Silk Road, dotted with historic and cultural attractions, was once unsurpassed in the trade it carried across Asia and Europe. The biggest obstacle to tourism expansion along the Silk Road was the insufficient capacity to handle large amounts of traffic, said Zhou, who has been in the tourism sector for 12 years. Zhou said his city had 24 international air links, but none leading to Central Asia, adding this had caused enormous inconvenience to both Chinese and foreign tourists. "Air links between China and Central Asia countries are urgently needed and the forum can also initiate a fund to finance the links," he said. Zhou also suggested trains for the exclusive use of tourists between major tourist spots and the establishment of consulates enroute to facilitate tourism expansion. The two-day forum was sponsored by the UNDP, the Ministry of Commerce and Lanzhou People's Government. It aims to create platforms for dialogue, and establish cooperation mechanisms for nations, cities and business communities.

(Source:Xinhua News Agency , 2007-07-05)