Ministers embark on master plan set to attract over 1 million tourists

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Ministers from 13 countries in Eastern Africa want to turn ancient shipwrecks into tourist attractions, as they focus on diversification of tourism products.

The ministers said countries that had protected and managed their underwater cultural heritage (UCH) could attract nearly 1 million tourists annually and boost their earnings.

Speaking during a regional ministerial conference on the protection of UCH for sustainable development, which ended yesterday, Sports and Culture Chief Administrative Secretary Hassan Noor said the countries would take measures to reap from their ancient underwater heritage.

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The conference was organised by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco) and the Ministry of Sports, Culture and Heritage through the National Museums of Kenya.

Mr Noor said they would fast-track ratification of the 2001 convention on the protection of underwater cultural heritage.

They noted that of the 13 member countries, only Madagascar had ratified the convention.

“As State parties, we have resolved to ratify the convention on underwater cultural heritage. We will report some progress back to Unesco during a conference in June this year.

We want to benefit from the untapped treasures lying under water,” said Hassan.He noted that Kenya had a 600km coastline dotted with ancient ship remains that were yet to be exploited as a tourism resource.

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