Tourism and Cultural Exchanges
It is often said that unforgettable journeys filled with life-changing experiences start in the Indian Ocean region. Bounded by Africa, the Middle East, Asia and Australia, the Indian Ocean Rim region prides itself with gorgeous beaches, magnificent turquoise waters, stunning islands, and breath-taking scenery, being frequently considered one of the most appealing marine destinations on Earth.
But that’s not all: the Indian Ocean region is also home to a melting pot of 2.5 billion beautiful people, one-third of the world's population, of diverse origins, cultures, languages and religions. One can see these influences at work throughout the realms of art, cuisine, music, dance, architecture, history, and more.
The economic relevance of tourism for the region makes harnessing its full potential essential for the advancement of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Managed well, tourism can play a positive role in the social, cultural, economic, and environmental development of the region and as such represents a significant development opportunity for countries in the Indian Ocean region. On the other hand, unchecked tourism development can lead to damaging impacts on natural resources, consumption patterns, pollution, and social systems. The need for sustainable planning and management is thus imperative for countries in the region to maximise the benefits of a positive and sustainable tourism sector.
IORA’s approach to Tourism and Cultural Exchanges
IORA promotes tourism and cultural exchanges by setting proposed policy directions for government cooperation and providing platforms for dialogue in promoting tourism amongst Member States, Dialogue Partners, and other international bodies.
The Jakarta Concord adopted by the IORA Heads of State and Government in March 2017 commits to fostering tourism and cultural exchanges by:
- increasing people-to-people interaction to promote regional economic growth.
- encouraging the sustainable development of community-based tourism and eco-tourism;
- promoting cultural heritage and harnessing the economic potential of this heritage, including World Heritage properties and sites;
- cooperating and sharing experiences for the sustainable development of tourism; and
- augmenting regional connectivity by encouraging direct flights and shipping services including cruises by encouraging investment in requisite infrastructure.
To achieve this, the IORA Member States developed the IORA Action Plan (2017-2021) which includes a set of specific and time-bound goals:
- Establish a Core Group for Tourism
- Strengthen the Core Group for Culture
- Conduct feasibility studies to explore the potential of cruise tourism
- Establish an IORA Tourism Resource Centre and Website in the Sultanate of Oman
- Develop joint capacity building projects in tourism including community-based tourism for poverty reduction, cultural heritage, and eco-tourism
Recent key wins for IORA so far include:
- One of the tasks under the Core Group on Tourism Work Plan is to identify opportunities to empower women in tourism by cooperating with the established WGWEE. As part of IORA’s partnership with UN Women to implement the Promoting Women’s Economic Empowerment in the Indian Ocean Rim (2018-2021) project, supported by Australia, UN Women will be hosting an Online Training Course on Women’s Economic Empowerment in the Tourism Sector of the Indian Ocean Rim Region from 11 May 2021.
- The Italian Republic and the IORA Secretariat hosted an IORA Webinar on Sustainable Cruise Tourism on 21 October 2020, as part of the XI edition of “Diplomacy - Festival della Diplomazia”, that was held in Rome on 20-30 October 2020.
- The United Arab Emirates (UAE) hosted the First Core Group on Tourism Meeting virtually on 31 August 2020. The meeting was attended by IORA Member States and Dialogue Partners. The meeting discussed the impact of COVID-19 on IORA’s Tourism industry and a regional response along with the status of the implementation of the Core Group’s Work Plan.
- The launch of the IORA Nelson Mandela Be the Legacy Programme at the 18th Council of Ministers’ Meeting in South Africa. The programme will see IORA Member States second young officials to gain work experience at the IORA Secretariat in Mauritius and solidify the historical link that IORA has with the global icon, Nelson Mandela. Owing to the current COVID-19 global pandemic the commencement of the Programme has been postponed until the international travel and health situation is conducive to hosting the programme.
- The Government of India hosted a Short Course in Films and Films Making for participants from IORA at the Film and Television Institute of India, Pune from 17 February – 13 March 2020. The course focused on smart phone-based film making, digital editing techniques, appreciation of Indian cinema industry, and field visits to Indian cinema industry facilities.
- The establishment of the Core Group on Tourism as a formal institutional mechanism of IORA and the adoption of its Workplan at the Second IORA Tourism Ministers held on 21-23 October 2018 in Port Elizabeth, South Africa. The Ministers’ meeting and the establishment of the Core Group has injected new energy into boosting tourism cooperation and exchange in the region.
- Publishing Travel Notes on IORA cities hosting events and meetings.
- The launch of the IORA Secretariat’s Tourism Newsletter to showcase IORA tourism offerings and update the public on the work and activities of the Core Group on Tourism.