G20 promises to push recovery in virus-hit tourism sector

By Rahul Vaimal, Associate Editor
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G20 Summit | Saudi Arabia 2020

COVID-19 lockdowns have hit international tourism, which is expected to see a 45 percent decline this year according to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

G20 nations unanimously pledged yesterday to support the economic shock of the coronavirus pandemic on global tourism, one of the hardest-hit industries in which millions risk losing their jobs.

G20 tourism ministers promised to secure coordination as their countries ease lockdowns and travel restrictions and to encourage the struggling industry’s recovery.

“We commit to helping tourism sector businesses… entrepreneurs and workers to adapt and thrive in a new post-crisis era,” the ministers said in a joint statement after a virtual meeting hosted by the group’s current president Saudi Arabia.

Up to 75 million jobs are at risk in the labor-intensive sector, they said, citing the World Travel and Tourism Council.

Saudi Arabian tourism minister, which last year announced its first tourist visas to promote the growing sector, sounded hopeful that the pandemic’s impact would be “short-term”.

Ahmed al-Khatib | Saudi Minister of Tourism

“The sites are still there, hotels are still there, restaurants are still there, waiting for visitors to come back,” – Ahmed al-Khatib.

Saudi tourism suffers a visible downturn just months after launching the new visas in September, boasting ambitions to welcome 100 million visitors by 2030.

The Saudi kingdom has spent billions in an effort to build a tourism industry from scratch, one of the main policies of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s urge to detach the economy off its decades-long interdependence on oil revenues.

Representational Image

Saudi Arabia has splurged more than 500 million riyals ($133 million) to isolate thousands of overseas travelers and those exposed to the virus in otherwise empty hotels around the kingdom, Khatib said.

The government is renting “complete hotels” for three or four months, Khatib added, offering a brief lifeline to the struggling sector.


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