The Silk Road, actually a network of routes, earned its name from the trade of silk, originating in China (206 BC) across 4,000 miles to the Mediterranean Sea; the routes opened up exchanges of not only goods but art, thought and innovation between East and West. The trade brought prosperity to China and communities along the road flourished, so much so, that China built its Great Wall to protect trade as well as to hold back invasions.
In more recent times, the Chang'an-Tianshan corridor of the Silk Road has been designated as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. There has been renewed activity recently to re-awaken the Silk Road for international trade and in particular, for tourism. UNWTO are leading the way in working toward enhancing sustainable tourism development along the route through its Silk Road Programme and have published their Action Plan for the area. It aims to maximize the benefits of tourism development for local communities, while stimulating investment and promoting the conservation of the route's natural and cultural heritage.