Saudi’s heritage preservation efforts shine at 45th session of UNESCO World Heritage Committee

Kingdom is showcasing six UNESCO-listed sites
Saudi’s heritage preservation efforts shine at 45th session of UNESCO World Heritage Committee
Elephant Mountain in Saudi (Credit: Courtesy of Royal Commision For Al-Ula)

The 45th extended session of the UNESCO World Heritage Committee has commenced in Saudi Arabia, marking a significant milestone as it is the first time the event is being held in the country. The opening day in Riyadh witnessed several representatives expressing their congratulations to Saudi Arabia for organizing this historic event, while also expressing their sympathy for the people of Morocco who have been affected by a devastating earthquake, resulting in the loss of over 2,200 lives and damage to numerous heritage sites.

As the chair of the World Heritage committee, Saudi Arabia has the opportunity to showcase its heritage preservation efforts. The country currently has six UNESCO-listed heritage sites, including the Hegra Archaeological Site, which celebrated its 15th anniversary as a UNESCO site in August. Additionally, Saudi Arabia has submitted 15 other sites for consideration, and there is a possibility of adding more locations to the World Heritage list.

To support its cultural preservation endeavors, Saudi Arabia has committed $10 million to UNESCO for funding five new cultural heritage projects over three years. In 2019, the kingdom invested $25 million in heritage preservation. The recognition of more cultural sites is expected to attract increased tourism, aligning with Saudi Arabia’s goal to attract one million tourists and create one million jobs within the tourism sector by 2030. The country also aims to increase tourism’s contribution to its GDP from 3 percent to over 10 percent in the next seven years.

 Read more: Saudi Tourism Authority, Emirates Airlines to co-boost Saudi tourism

225 percent increase in revenues

The efforts to promote tourism in Saudi Arabia have already shown promising results. In the first quarter of 2023, incoming tourism revenues increased by about 225 percent compared to the same period in the previous year, reaching over $9.8 billion. The Saudi Central Bank reported a surplus of payments used for travel to the kingdom, indicating a positive trend in tourism-related economic activities.

Two years’ nominations

Originally scheduled to be held in Russia in 2022, the event was postponed due to the invasion of Ukraine. As a result, this year’s committee will consider two years’ worth of nominations, including sites from Saudi Arabia, Vietnam, Palestine, Tunisia,Türkiye, and Iran.

The UNESCO World Heritage Committee, composed of representatives from 21 states, will evaluate the state of conservation of existing World Heritage sites before assessing nominations for the World Heritage List. The committee will announce the venue and dates for the next session on September 24.

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