The “United Nations World Tourism Organization” (UNWTO) recently hosted the 6th silk road initiative. Representatives from 33 member nations participated in the event which was held in the Iranian city of Urmia. The goal being to “enhance sustainable tourism development along the Silk Road. Travel is expected to benefit the local communities residing in areas along this route. Additionally, it could also encourage investment from other countries while playing a role in conserving the natural environment and cultural heritage of the Silk Road.
Director of Cultural Heritage, Tourism and Handicrafts Organization of Iran, Mahroud Soltanifar, spoke of the Silk Road being not only a “commercial route but also a cultural and touristic one.” It was also mentioned at the initiative, how the history of both Iran and the Silk Road are linked to one another. Iran is at a prime location point where cultural and economic exchange can take place and should prove to be beneficial in “boosting economic ties” as well as promoting tourism in the member countries.
It seems the ancient trade routes which once existed along the Silk Road could be revived. The Silk Road linked the Mediterranean, Asia, and the Middle East in ancient times. Today, Iran is bordered by 15 different countries and has maritime ports to both the north and south of the country. China is running its Silk Road project and believes that Iran plays an important part in this due to its convenient location along the Silk Road. The Chinese president, Xi Jinping, visited Tehran, the first leader to do so since the sanctions were lifted. An agreement to boost trade between both countries over the next ten years was signed between China and Iran.
Reviving the Silk Road, as both a rail and sea trading route, is an imperative in China’s initiative to boost the economy. Iranian containers have successfully passed along the maritime route, transporting cargo from countries along the way to China.
A Silk Road rail route between Iran and China is now being used, as a freight train ran from China to Iran, making history by being the first trip along the road since it was used many years ago. The journey lasted only two weeks, and a distance of 10,339km was covered from China, passing through stops in Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan. This took a month, less than it would be to cover the entire distance along the maritime route. The train traveled an average of 700 km per day, which was exceptional, being its first trip, proving how vital the rail system can be in the future of the Silk Road. Iran intends to extend the line as far as Europe, and with Iran being so strategically positioned, this can only strengthen trade links with surrounding member countries.
The China – Iran rail system will initially run once a month from Yiwu to Tehran. Trips should become more frequent once trade along the line has increased. The trains carrying freight from China will continue to Europe as Iran hopes that this will generate more income and put her on the map once again.