Secretary Tam and MGTO attend UNWTO Conference in Cambodia

First ever joint conference by United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) and United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) on tourism and culture hosted by Siem Reap, Cambodia (Photo provided by Government Information Bureau)

Last month, the Secretary for Social Affairs and Culture, Alexis Tam Chon Weng, travelled to Siem Reap in Cambodia to attend the first World Conference on Tourism and Culture (4th to 6th February) in conjunction with MGTO officials headed by Director Maria Helena de Senna Fernandes. The event - organized by the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) and United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) - received around 1,100 attendees from some 99 countries and regions, including more than 40 tourism and culture ministers, as well as officials, tourism enterprise representatives, scholars and reporters from all over the world who gathered to discuss cultural preservation, cultural travel and urban regeneration through cultural tourism. Among other dignitaries, the event was attended by Mr. Samdech Hun Sen, Prime Minister of Cambodia and his Minister of Tourism, Mr. Thong Khon.

In his address, UNWTO Secretary General Taleb Rifai offered a “special word of appreciation to our sister UN agency, UNESCO, for the partnership we have built throughout the years. Today´s conference reflects well our close ties and our common vision on the transformative power of culture and tourism as drivers of a more inclusive and sustainable future." He went on to say that from an economic perspective, cultural tourism allows destinations to “become more competitive, attract investment, create new employment opportunities, promote multiple linkages to other industries, and even revive lost traditional activities and customs."

He also said that 2015 is an historic moment for the UN and for countries around the world as they work to set “a shared and inclusive agenda that places people at the centre of development."

During a three-hour-long ministerial dialogue Secretary Tam delivered a speech expressing the MSAR Government's concern about the protection of cultural heritage, as well as its wishes to foster the collaborative partnership of culture and tourism. He said that while Macau may be famous for its gaming tourism, it is the territory's combination of culture and tourism that is the most attractive. He said that he appreciated the meeting organizer's emphasis on establishing co-operation between culture and tourism, and said that Macau would be receptive to learning from other countries.

Edmund Ho, the former MSAR Chief Executive and current vice president of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, was also invited to attend the event. Alexis Tam accompanied Mr. Ho to meetings with the Cambodian Prime Minister, Hun Sen, the Assistant Director-General for Culture at the United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization, Alfredo Pérez de Armiñán, and the UNWTO Secretary-General, Taleb Rifai. Secretary Tam and Macau Government Tourist Office Director Helena de Senna Fernandes also visited the Cambodian Minister of Tourism, Dr. Thong Khon.

The conference was held in the Cambodian tourism capital city of Siem Reap near the UNESCO World Heritage site of Angkor Wat Temple, one of the most important archaeological sites in Southeast Asia. Occupying some 400 km², including forested areas, Angkor Archaeological Park contains the magnificent remains of the different capitals of the Khmer Empire, from the 9th to 15th Century. The Park includes the famous Temple of Angkor Wat and, at Angkor Thom, the Bayon Temple with its countless sculptural decorations.