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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 UN World Tourism Organization on June 7-8 in Jeddah, with around 180 participants worldwide.

The two-day event will deliberate on all necessary measures to implement the council’s decisions and recommendations to support the sector.

The Executive Council’s session will be held on the first day of the event, followed by a thematic session called Tourism Futures — New Governance and Advocacy on the second day.

Although it took a severe hit after the COVID-19 pandemic, the tourism sector proved to be resilient, with international tourist arrivals in some regions starting to equal and even exceed pre-pandemic levels in 2022, according to the UNWTO.

The council will determine the potential drive to sustain the industry in a post-pandemic era by exploring challenges and opportunities that govern global communication.

To address these concerns, the thematic session will contain two distinct tracks. The first is called “Towards a New Tourism Governance: Lessons Learned for a Resilient Future,” which will include tourism ministers from across the world and high-level representatives of international organizations.

The second session, “Raising Tourism’s Visibility,” will aim to boost political and public recognition of the sector in a discussion led by the ministers and leading figures from online and broadcast media, marketing and business. 

The thematic session opens a debate to think big and reimagine what the tourism sector needs in governance, funding and advocacy.

Proving its importance, UNWTO sees the tourism sector as one of the most critical aspects of economic growth and an essential pillar for development.

Survey findings

Findings of a survey, conducted by YouGov and commissioned by the Saudi Tourism Ministry,  found Saudis to be the most optimistic on the prospect of taking either a holiday or business trip abroad in the next six months, reflecting strong performance of the Saudi economy.

The Future of Tourism Survey  explored attitudes to travel and the expectations of consumers in 11 countries around the world.

Almost 14,000 people were polled, across China, the US, the UK, Germany, India, Japan, Saudi Arabia, Mexico, South Korea, Spain and Sweden.

The study also showed that travelers call for a change in tourism as the sector shows recovery from pandemic repercussions, with 44 percent of respondents wanting greater harmonization of health protocols and the use of technology to ease travel.

While 34 percent called for greater sustainability to the sector and 33 percent called for greater financial protections for travelers, according to a statement. 

“The Future of Tourism Survey shows that the public want us to learn the lessons of the pandemic and to make changes that put health, sustainability, and the better use of technology, at the heart of future tourism,” said Saudi Tourism Minister  Ahmed Al-Khateeb.

The survey found that travelers’ attitudes have changed following the pandemic, with 55 percent of respondents now more likely to travel domestically. 

The declining enthusiasm for travel over the next six month is attributed to economic uncertainty and rising prices. 

By aligning vision, leadership and resources we have been able to create a new model for tourism.

Ahmed Al-Khateeb, Saudi tourism minister

The biggest impact has been seen on business travel, as 18 percent of respondents consider themselves likely or very likely to travel internationally for business.

However, 42 percent of respondents said that they are either likely or very likely to travel internationally for a holiday.  

Tourism in Saudi Arabia

Most recently, Saudi Arabia advanced 10 ranks to 33rd globally in the Travel and Tourism Development Index released by the World Economic Forum. 

“Saudi Arabia is a brand-new tourism 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 for tourism which is more resilient and more sustainable by design,” the minister added. 

Tourism plays a crucial role in the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 plan for economic diversification.

As a result, 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 percent.

Part of the Kingdom’s strategy involves job creation and the construction of additional tourism facilities, including hotels.

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