Saudi Arabia sets the stage for UN tourism summit as travelers seek post-pandemic change
RIYADH: Saudi Arabia will host the 116th Executive Council of the United Nations World Tourism Organization on June 7-8 in Jeddah, with around 180 participants from around the world.
The two-day event will deliberate on all necessary measures to implement the council’s decisions and recommendations to support the sector.
The Executive Board session will be held on the first day of the event, followed by a thematic session titled Tourism Futures — New Governance and Advocacy on the second day.
Although hard hit following the COVID-19 pandemic, the tourism sector has proven resilient, with international tourist arrivals in some regions beginning to match and even exceed pre-pandemic levels in 2022, according to UNWTO.
The council will determine potential readiness to support the industry in a post-pandemic era by exploring the challenges and opportunities that govern global communication.
To address these concerns, the thematic session will have two distinct components. The first is titled “Towards a New Tourism Governance: Lessons Learned for a Resilient Future”, which will include tourism ministers from around the world and high-level representatives from international organizations.
The second session, “Increasing the Visibility of Tourism”, will aim to strengthen the political and public recognition of the sector in a discussion moderated by ministers and personalities from online and audiovisual media, marketing and business.
The thematic session opens a debate to think big and reimagine what the tourism sector needs in terms of governance, financing and advocacy.
Proof of its importance, the UNWTO considers the tourism sector as one of the most critical aspects of economic growth and an essential pillar of development.
Results of a survey, conducted by YouGov and commissioned by the Saudi Ministry of Tourism, found that Saudis were the most optimistic about the prospect of taking a holiday or business trip abroad in the past six coming months, reflecting the solid performance of the Saudi economy.
The Future of Tourism survey explored travel attitudes and consumer expectations in 11 countries around the world.
Nearly 14,000 people were interviewed, in China, the United States, the United Kingdom, Germany, India, Japan, Saudi Arabia, Mexico, South Korea, Spain and Sweden.
The study also showed that travelers are calling for change in tourism as the sector recovers from the repercussions of the pandemic, with 44% of respondents wanting greater harmonization of health protocols and the use of technology to facilitate the trips.
While 34% called for greater sustainability in the sector and 33% called for greater financial protection for travellers, according to a statement.
“The Future of Tourism survey shows that the public wants us to learn from the pandemic and make changes that put health, sustainability and better use of technology at the heart of future tourism,” said Saudi Tourism Minister Ahmed Al.-Khateb.
The survey found that traveler attitudes have changed post-pandemic, with 55% of respondents now more likely to travel domestically.
The decline in enthusiasm for travel over the next six months is attributed to economic uncertainty and rising prices.
By aligning vision, leadership and resources, we were able to create a new model of tourism.
Ahmed Al-Khateeb, Saudi Minister of Tourism
The greatest impact was seen on business travel, with 18% of respondents considering themselves likely or very likely to travel abroad for business.
However, 42% of respondents said they are likely or very likely to travel abroad for vacation.
Tourism in Saudi Arabia
More recently, Saudi Arabia moved up 10 ranks to 33rd in the world in the Travel and Tourism Development Index published by the World Economic Forum.
“Saudi Arabia is a brand new tourist destination. We opened our doors to international tourism just before the pandemic, and because of that, we are willing and able to think and act in new and different ways,” Al-Khateeb said.
“By aligning vision, leadership and resources, we have been able to create a new model of tourism that is more resilient and more sustainable by design,” added the Minister.
Tourism plays a crucial role in the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 plan for economic diversification.
As a result, the Saudi authorities plan to invest up to $200 billion and welcome 100 million visitors by 2030. Vision 2030 aims to increase the tourism sector’s contribution to gross domestic product to 10%.
Part of the Kingdom’s strategy involves creating jobs and building additional tourist facilities, including hotels.