JEDDAH: Saudi Tourism Minister Ahmed Al-Khateeb called on global leaders to agree on a unified set of travel protocols to help accelerate the global recovery of the industry and retain millions of jobs lost during the pandemic.
The minister was speaking at the Tourism Recovery Summit hosted in Riyadh on Wednesday, which included over 60 global speakers, including 16 ministers.
“We all agreed here that it’s all about collaboration, and we cannot just collaborate at the destination level,” Fahd Hamidaddin, CEO of the Saudi Tourism Authority, said during a session.
Echoing Al-Khateeb’s sentiments, Hamidaddin noted that as each region and international institution initiates its own protocol and travel pass conditions, the sector’s recovery will continue to struggle without a unified plan.
Another key focus of the summit was the protection of the environment. In this regard, Saudi Arabia’s approach goes beyond maintaining the environmental status quo, according to John Pagano, CEO of AMAALA and the Red Sea Development Co. “Everything we do is in the service of our commitment to deliver a 30 percent net conservation benefit by 2040,” he said. “The tourism sector is a major job creator,” said Princess Haifa bint Mohammed Al-Saud, assistant minister for executive affairs and strategy at the Ministry of Tourism. “Just in the first quarter of this year, we managed to include 35,000 jobs at a time when the world is losing jobs and tourism,” she said.
Pagano said that he is proud that Saudis occupy over 50 percent of jobs at AMAALA, one of the Kingdom’s key resort development projects. Eventually, the Red Sea Development Company and AMAALA will be willing to employ around 60,000 people directly and create an additional 60,000 indirect jobs.
Furthermore, NEOM, the Kingdom’s futuristic city, is aiming to provide 180,000 tourism-related jobs. The sector will generate around one-third of the city’s gross domestic product, according to Nadhmi Al-Nasr, NEOM’s CEO.
As well as generating jobs, NEOM is also aiming to adhere to the Kingdom’s sustainability focus. Al-Nasr said that the project is “committed to keeping 95 percent of the land untouchable.”
“We are building the largest regenerated coral reef garden on Earth. Construction has started, and by the time we finish in five years, it will be 70 times bigger than what exists today,” he added.