MADRID, Dec. 13 (Xinhua) -- Spain's Minister of Culture and Sport, Jose Guirao, brought the curtain down on the European Year of Cultural Heritage at an event hosted by the University of Alcala de Henares.
The historic university dates back to the year 1293 and is one of five universities considered by UNESCO to be World Heritage Sites.
The minister said on Wednesday night that Spain had the third highest number of UNESCO World Heritage sites in the world (behind China and Italy), adding that these 47 sites play a major role in defining Spain's identity.
"If anything helps us stand out in this globalized world, it is out cultural patrimony, which is unique and immense," said Guirao.
He explained that the European Year of Cultural Heritage "aimed to promote exchange and appreciation of Europe's cultural heritage, history and shared values to help strengthen what makes Europe a shared space."
The program of the year included over 900 events, among them conferences and exhibitions that have attracted over 5 million people.
"One of the foundations of the European Union is that culture is accessible and integrated and helps to promote shared values," explained Guirao.
According to statistics published a week ago by the Ministry of Education, Culture and Sport, 13 million foreign tourists have visited Spain so far in 2018 drawn by its cultural attractions. This is a 38 percent increase on 2017.
This led Javier Rodriguez Palacios, the mayor of the historic town of Alcala de Henares, to emphasize at the event that "Spain cannot be closed. It has to be open and share its riches with the rest of the world. Madrid and Alcala de Henares are willing to take up the challenge of having the responsibility of being cities with people from many different origins," commented Rodriguez Palacios.