RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Minister for Tourism Ahmed Al-Khateeb today, September 16, announced that the establishment of the UNWTO Regional Office for the Middle East in Riyadh has been approved by UNWTO Executive Council members.
The announcement was made in a statement at the 112th session of the UNWTO Executive Council, hosted in Georgia, Tbilisi.
The new UNWTO Regional Office will serve as a hub for the UNWTO to 13 countries in the Middle East. The office will focus on building 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, said a statement.
In the statement, Al-Khateeb reiterated his continued support to the UNWTO. “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. 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 one of the only sectors that is able to drive such tangible transformative change, on so many levels.”
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 Saudi 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.
Al-Khateeb further highlighted the importance of tourism within the kingdom’s vision and national strategy. “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 said.