UN World Tourism Organization chooses Riyadh for Mideast HQ

UN World Tourism Organization chooses Riyadh for Mideast HQ
Saudi Arabia opened its tourist sector to foreigners in 2018. (file/Reuters)
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Updated 26 May 2021

UN World Tourism Organization chooses Riyadh for Mideast HQ

UN World Tourism Organization chooses Riyadh for Mideast HQ

RIYADH: The UN World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) has chosen Riyadh to open its first regional office outside Madrid.

The Riyadh office’s mission will be to coordinate policies and initiatives across 13 countries in the Middle East and to promote tourism products and sustainable development.

The office will also collect statistics, help to stimulate investment in tourism, and work to define regional health and safety policies for the sector.

“Our main priority as a UN organisation is to create new jobs, and create new destinations," Zurab Pololikashvili, secretary-general of the UNWTO, said in a speech at the Tourism Recovery Summit 2021 in Riyadh. "The new UNWTO regional office is a sign of hope for many people. The restart of tourism needs leadership and coordination."

The organization's other priorities include supporting businesses, helping protect nature and cultural heritage, fighting depopulation and regional inequalities, and empowering people and communities, he said.

The office was constructed in eight months during the pandemic, he said.

Separately, Saudi Arabia, in partnership with the World Bank, pledged $100 million to establish the International Fund for Comprehensive Tourism, said Saudi Tourism Minister Ahmed Al- Khateeb.

It will be the first global fund dedicated specifically to supporting global tourism growth, as it aims to build human and institutional capacity across the pandemic-battered sector, Al-Khateeb said on the sidelines of the Tourism Recovery Summit 2021 in Riyadh, Argaam reported.

“We learned that the industry is not flexible enough, we lost many jobs in the sector 14 months ago and many companies left the work system, and we know that all businesses are led by the private sector, so we have to rebuild a tourism industry that is more flexible to face such crisis,” said Al-Khateeb.

Al-Khateeb criticized the European Union for developing a protocol for solo travel for the next summer season, without coordination with other countries.

The tourism sector is “one global sector.,” so we have to put in place a unified protocol to facilitate travel, he said.