At the invitation of H.E. Shaikha Mai Bint Mohammed Al-Khalifa, President of the Bahrain Authority for Culture and Antiquities and Chairperson of the Board of the Arab Regional Centre for World Heritage, UNWTO Secretary-General, Taleb Rifai, attended the celebrations of Bahrain’s Spring of Cultures Festival, which coincided with Arab Tourism Day on February 25.
This was an occasion to stress the importance of cultural preservation and the links between tourism and culture particularly in the scope of the International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development 2017.
“2017, declared by the United Nations General Assembly as the International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development, is a unique opportunity to promote the value of tourism to in the preservation of our values, diversity and heritage. Tourism revives traditional activities and customs, empowers communities and nurtures pride within them, promoting cultural diversity and raising awareness of the value of heritage”, said UNWTO Secretary-General, Taleb Rifai.
On the occasion, Mr Rifai was presented with the advances in the development of the Path of Pearls, including the restoration of several traditional houses in Manama.
Bahrain island society developed an economic, cultural and social system that was based on a singular source of income, a natural product of incomparable beauty: the pearls of Bahrain. The unique story of pearling in Bahrain and its physical testimony in Muharraq is now listed by UNESCO as World Heritage site.
“I would like to commend the immense efforts of H.E. Shaikha Mai Bint Mohammed Al-Khalifa in preserving and promoting culture in Bahrain and its relationship with tourism”, added Mr Rifai.
UNWTO has been long promoting the development of cultural tourism routes as a means to advance regional integration and economic development, namely through its long standing Silk Road Tourism Program.
As part of Bahrain’s Spring of Cultures Festival, Mr Rifai also attended the Lebanese opera show “Antar and Abla” at the Bahrain National Theater.
In recognition of her contribution to the promotion of sustainable cultural tourism, UNWTO will designate H.E. Shaikha Mai Bint Mohammad Al-Khalifa as Special Ambassador for the International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development 2017 at a special ceremony at UNWTO Headquarters in Madrid on March 24, 2017.