Riyadh hosts the World Tourism Organization’s annual summit

The event discusses the pandemic's impact on the tourism industry
Riyadh hosts the World Tourism Organization’s annual summit
UNWTO's annual summit

Saudi Arabia has been chosen by the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) to host a conference on the pandemic’s impact on the vital tourism industry.

Last May, UNWTO announced the opening of its regional office in Riyadh, the first outside of Madrid, dedicated to the Middle East, in May. The regional office’s mission will be to coordinate policies and initiatives across 13 Middle Eastern countries. The office also seeks to promote tourism products and sustainable development, gather important statistics for the sector and share information, as well as encourage investment in tourism assets and components and work to define policies related to health issues.

Yesterday, in Saudi’s capital, the WTO’s Secretary-General, Zurab Pololikashvili, sounded an upbeat note, saying that the first day had left him “full of hope” for the tourism industry’s future.

According to a WTO statement, the 116th session was the largest meeting of the Executive Council since the start of the pandemic, with more than 200 participants and 32 countries represented.

It noted that the meeting came at a pivotal point for the sector as it learns from the lessons of the pandemic while at the same time looking ahead to a more sustainable, inclusive, and resilient future.

“We have faced up to a triple crisis: an ongoing pandemic, a climate emergency, and now the return of war in Europe,” Pololikashvili said.

He illustrated how UNWTO is seizing tourism’s unprecedented relevance, including within the United Nations, in national recovery and growth plans, and within the wider public and media conversation.

Tourism’s restart


UNWTO laid out its plans to keep advancing the priorities around fostering sustainability, promoting tourism jobs and education, growing tourism investments, and accelerating its digital transformation.

Saudi’sMinister of Tourism and host of the Executive Council, Ahmed Al Khateeb, said: “Tourism’s restart in many countries around the world offers a unique chance to rethink tourism governance, communications and beyond. We have an incredible opportunity to set a new way forward, to create a strong future for the global tourism sector, and we must embrace it.”

The recognition of tourism’s importance was further echoed by the Minister of Tourism and Leisure of Cote d’Ivoire, also serving as Executive Council Chair, Siandou Fofana, who noted that “tourism is united to face future challenges” while stressing the importance of cohesion in planning and policymaking as the sector recovers to drive wider social and economic recovery.

Members agreed to hold the 117th session of the UNWTO Executive Council in Morocco, in the second half of this year.

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