Shifting Of UNWTO HQ | Saudi Crown Prince Calls Spanish PM
RIYADH: Saudi’s role in World Tourism and the UNWTO headquarters move from Spain to Saudi Arabia may have been high on the agenda in a phone call last week. The call between Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez has opened room for speculations for the future of world tourism.
As reported by Arab News and the Saudi Gazette, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman from Saudi Arabia talked with Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez.
In recent years, Riyadh has unveiled a series of multi-billion-dollar projects to open up the country to tourists and bring in 100 million visitors by 2030, shifting away from its dependence on oil.
Though they discussed bilateral relations between Saudi Arabia and Spain and ways to enhance them experts expect one of the key reasons behind this high-level discussion was Saudi Arabia’s plan to propose the move of the World Tourism Organization to Riyadh.
Will the World Tourism Organization leave Madrid for Riyadh? Stricken at the thought, Spain is making major diplomatic efforts to prevent Saudi from snatching the only UN agency headquartered in the Iberian peninsular.
But for Spain, the world’s number 2 tourist destination, Riyadh’s intentions are clear. Foreign Minister Jose Manuel Albares had made to his Saudi counterpart his opposition to efforts to relocate the UNWTO.
“Saudi Arabia still hasn’t yet submitted a formal proposal but it has signaled its interest,” a diplomatic source told AFP in remarks confirmed by several tourism industry chiefs.
“At the beginning, we thought it was just a rumour. But now there is quite a lot of information to suggest it’s serious,” said Carlos Abella, secretary-general of the Mesa del Turismo industry body.
Contacted by AFP, a senior Saudi tourism ministry official denied there were any “ongoing negotiations” about moving the UN agency to Riyadh where it recently set up a regional office.
The European Union is home to three of the world’s top five tourist destinations, and centrist MEPs warned what was at stake in a letter to Brussels.
“Its relocation would be a serious blow to the EU’s image and it would also be a real reputational problem for Europe as a tourist power,” said signatory Jose Ramon Bauza.