Saudi Arabia to host first regional office of UNWTO

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Saudi Gazette report

TBILISI —
The United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) has approved the setting up of a regional office in Riyadh to support the growth of the Middle East’s tourism sector as it recovers from the coronavirus pandemic.

Minister of Tourism Ahmed Al-Khateeb said the UNWTO’s Executive Council members have approved the move to establish the office during a session in Georgia. The office will cover 13 countries within the region, and will serve as a platform to build long-term growth for the sector and human capital development in the travel and tourism sector in the region.

The office will also include a dedicated Statistics Center whose objective is to become the leading authority on tourism statistics for the region.

“International cooperation and the role of the UNWTO are more important than ever. I am therefore very excited that Saudi Arabia will become home to the first ever UNWTO Regional Office, which aims to support growth at a national and regional level,” Al-Khateeb said.

“We hope this will provide a model for future collaborations around the world. Tourism not only boosts economies, it also builds bridges between cultures and enriches lives. It is able to drive such tangible transformative change, on so many levels.

“In Saudi Arabia, we are very aware of the transformative power of tourism on the economy and people. We may still be a young destination, but tourism is at the forefront of Saudi Arabia’s vision for the future,” he added.

“International cooperation and the role of the UNWTO are more important than ever. I am therefore very excited that Saudi Arabia will become home to the first ever UNWTO Regional Office, which aims to support growth at a national and regional level,” Al-Khateeb said.

The announcement comes as a result of a long-standing partnership between the Ministry of Tourism and the UNWTO, who have joined efforts throughout the global health crisis to take a leading role in shaping recovery strategies for the travel and tourism sector, which has been hit hard by the economic slow-down.

This builds on the leadership of the Ministry of Tourism, which has already been working throughout Saudi’s G20 Presidency to establish a coordinated response to the pandemic, in partnership with the tourism industry.

Recently, Al-Khateeb revealed that the Council of Ministers has given the Ministry of Tourism the go ahead to open a regional office of UNWTO in Riyadh as well as to establish a global academy for tourism training.

Al-Khateeb pointed out that the ministry, in cooperation with UNWTO, would work to lay the foundations and standards that enable the proposed academy to be among the best tourism academies in the world.

It is noteworthy that that the UNWTO secretary general praised the Saudi Summer season during a recent visit to the Kingdom during which he toured a number of Saudi summer destinations. Al-Khateeb hoped that the Kingdom, together with UNWTO, would launch a set of initiatives to develop the tourism sector in the region.


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