Back again in Hamburg i found time to report a short impression about the „2nd International Congress on World Civilizations and Historic Routes“ which was held in Sofia / Bulgaria
Thank you Bulgaria
First of all, I would like to thank the hosts and organizers – the Ministry of Tourism of the Republic of Bulgaria and UNWTO for such a professional, well organized and successful event in Sofia / Bulgaria.
My name is Kai Markus Xiong, i´m an 45 year old german who is actively activist and ultra athlete but the same time keynote speaker and consultant. Due my international experience i realized my own life dream in 2017 – running the silk road.
you can think it – you can do it
We all a part of a change and we all have the power for change…. Today i will report about my attendance at the „2nd International Congress on World Civilizations and Historic Routes„
Enjoy reading and know i never read double – so all correct spelling and gramma is accidentally and not on purpose 😉
Even before my departure from Germany, my boarding pass had been sent by email – that rarely happens at major events. A, this has a nice reminder function and it is a discharge for me as a traveler.
An Organized Airport pick up not need to be mentioned, but the fact that the pickup crews seemed to be well trained. This I noticed by an interesting exchange about the country and people but belly on the serious and open minded hospitality. I felt more like visiting friends than traveling to an international conference. Enriched with impressions to a great history, local impressions, delicious food and interesting conversations.
Bulgaria – a country that is often presented in the media only negative and misrepresented. These representations create a certain anxiety which, of course, is based on ignorance.
Immediately after my late arrival in Sofia (due to the late departure in Hamburg) i wanted to break down my own prejudices.
So it went as always for running. Running in an old town, meeting other runners and experiencing the flair is unique. Overcoming the fear through the darkness.
Through the safe streets, mostly well lit I passed by some of the cultural monuments and noticed very quickly: Here is history to experience. Also the conversation with people on my run was interesting. Unbelieving eyes and statements positively hit me. I am committed to breaking down prejudices and I believe that Bulgaria is a great country, the first impressions and conversations were all great and inspiring and I’m curious about this city.
The reaction: „What, it is rare that Germans find something good here and give us a chance to show that most people here are great and good people“ That was very shameful for me and continues to motivate me for this topic to fight.
The security levels were set very high and still not disturbing. With increased security, we get a negative impression. Not so in Sofia. Even armed security on my hotel floor wasn’t disturbing. Due the fact an representative on Minister level was at the same floor i could totally understand. We would do the same here as well – maybe i could not stay at the same floor like a minister when it comes to international conference in Germany?
Why an ultra athlete and activist has to attend – why I’m there?
Running was always only an „vehicle“ as i said. I experienced the historical routes, „the silk road“ on my almost 7000 miles long „Culture Bridge Run“ from Hamburg in Germany to Shanghai in China. Thus, it is me to tell of practical experiences, experiences and the ups and downs. So i was i could deliver an practical impression and live report with wicht the participants „see one of the historical routes in action“. In addition, my speeches are highly motivating and inspiring. A fact that should never be missed at conferences.
What the organizers want to reach there?
A look to the invitations of the organizers says:
- explore the possible ways in which world civilizations could be brought to life through tourism
- making use of the networks developed along historic routes.
- focus on addressing how tourism along these routes can play a leading role in creating new socio-economic opportunities
- safeguarding and promoting tangible and intangible ancient heritage on development at local, regional and national level while
- opportunity to build upon the great cultural wealth spanning along the ancient routes
- learn from different experiences and generate synergies
„… Launched in 2017 as a joint initiative between UNWTO and the European Union, the UNWTO’s Western Silk Road focuses on the development and diversification of the Western link of the Silk Road, an area geographically defined to primarily include European Union Member States, but also partner countries located along the Mediterranean basin, the Caspian Sea and the Black Sea. The collaborative initiative integrates both a product development and capacity building components to successfully design strategies to foster sustainable tourism development along the Western Silk Road, with tangible and intangible Silk Road heritage as a unifying theme. …“
But do the goals meet the expectations?
Summarized i will answer this question with „Yes“! But why?
From my experience the main problems in formats and development at this level, besides financial and political issues are information gaps.
Such like culture knowledge gaps, gaps about others goals or pressure, lack of information who is working on the same problem like we do…
To fill these gaps, the format was an outstanding platform. The speeches focused on these points and the speakers were able to contribute to a lively exchange.
I talked with a lot of participants, asked about their expectations and later on about the result. Nearly everyone i talked with agreed that it was not only worth to attend, it was also necessary to hold this conference.
Most feedback has been like: „i got solutions on problems i just work on“ or „i get inspiration for continue what i just do and find new directions to develop“ or such „I’m so happy that this format not have cultural gaps, everyone can easy talk with anyone. No matter the cultural or hierarchy.
Surprisingly this time all speeches are aired on youtube live. So if you want get a personal impression you will find the link below…
Let me name some of the outstanding speeches and presentations i experienced there. From my consultant perspective they are like:
- Exploring the role of governments and regional policies in the development of historic routes (Moderated by Ms. Sofia Mavratzas, Editor-In-Chief, CNN Greece)
or one of my favorites wich is moderated by John Bell:
- Creating Signature Cultural Tourism Experiences along the Historic Routes and World Civilizations (by Mr. John Bell, Travel Journalist and Writer)
John is an extraordinary person who has not only huge experience but also matching humor to boost formats in a big way. I particularly liked that everyone in the room was 100% attentive. John manages to involve people – great!
My personal highlights
There are two personal highlights
One is the presentation of Mr. Jens Thraenhart, Executive Director – Mekong Tourism Coordinating Office (MTCO) at his topic:
“Successful promotion and branding of a historic route”
His speech was not only inspiring. He meet the expectations of new marketing, new media, travelers, bloggers and locals. Combine all in a great frame work, smart and advanced. Really touching. Also as speaker he is amazing. That what Jens told and taught us all was highest level and he surpasses the expectations of the guests by a far. I was very happy he had time at the technical tour on the bus. So we could exchange informations and discussed further opportunities. Amazing guy.
I can’t write anything which is better than the youtube video you can directly see his speech… Link see below…
My other highlight was a young lady from India. „Its my first international travel…“ she told me. But she is a person who „stand up and fight“ fight for a better world. If it comes to sustainability then her eyes sparkle, her whole heart shines. So she stand up at the high level meeting and asked the audience by ministers how they push sustainability in tourism and which role this plays. Everyone was happy she talked about and also the delegated ones are happy to be able to answer her questions which she brought fresh and motivated without any without any accusations or bad thoughts.
Fast she get into all the groups and was a welcome conversation partner and i could see everyone enjoy to talk with her and her inspiring way of communication – includes me – absolutely. As co founder of Igloopupa.com she will be a part of change.
Here you see her actual ideas but there is much more power in her than that. Amazing…
Besides that an other impressive speech delivered by Mr. Barnaby Davies , Co-founder, Eastguides West
My own summarize of the congress is the word
On our technical tour we found this art and i push my self to make a picture there – it ends up what i expected – we all go there and show the diversity and our „together“ as a new formed group of passioned and motivated game changers…
Speeches on Video
One new surprising offer was the live stream on youtube of all the speeches and presentations.
Here you can find the two days of the speeches. My speech you will find at DAY II
Video starts at my session.
If you want see Mr. Jens Thraenhart, Executive Director – Mekong Tourism Coordinating Office (MTCO) than go back to the beginning.
Also the event was a great success i would like to take the opportunity to point out some suggestions for improvement.
- Communication with relevant key person
Use break times efficiently. The speakers should be available not only for pictures but also for conservations – maybe at appointed places everyone know.
- Mixed Groups
Encouraging group formation (people often sit together at congresses, who already have a good and often exchanged experience.) The need for a mix is highly important, which is why table meals could be organized at mealtimes, seating plans could be similar but often difficult to implement from a political point of view.)Organized swapping of table neighbors at dinners (for example, new constellations could be set up for the dessert, which is easy and quick to implement, allowing for better meshing)
- Awareness of each and event
awareness of such events would be much higher if the organizers offers the related hashtags in several languages. People will post a lot during and after the events. Offer me my hashtags in local languages or at least in main languages like english, Russian, chinese, Spanish would increase the awareness – on some conferences there are students with iPads. You can go to them and ask for suitable hashtags on related topics in several languages – they check for you and translate the hashtag. Simple but efficient.
- Resources like paper
An other step should be we all think about our business cards. Sustainability starts with small steps. I calculated approximately around 5 KG paper only by business cards exchange the owner. In our new technology possibilities this could be a first step away from waste resources. And there are solutions make it efficient and easy.
- Resources like Paper
The same is related to our health. I love all kind of food – we all need to care more on order what we eat. Not only on conferences food is waste, also in private homes, normal restaurants and so on. As organizer of events you can play a leading role to push this topic and remind on our all obligation for the future.
- Resources like Flights
Often people fly business class. Everyone need to do what they can agree themselves. I travel a lot, but I’m healthy and normal size – i not fly business class. The seats of Business class take the space of 2-3 others. Some people will defiantly need that but most of us not. Think about this when you booking a flight. Small change big result.