World Tourism Organization opens ME’s 1st regional office in Saudi Arabia

By Shilpa Annie Joseph, Official Reporter
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UNWTO has opened its first regional office in Riyadh.

The World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) has launched its first regional office in the Middle East, bringing the UN specialized agency closer to its Members and expanding its commitment to fostering tourism development globally.

The office in Riyadh was inaugurated by UNWTO Secretary-General, Mr. Zurab Pololikashvili, and the Saudi Minister for Tourism, His Excellency Ahmed Al Khateeb at an event attended by regional tourism ministers and industry leaders.

The new regional office will act as a hub for UNWTO to coordinate policies and projects across 13 Middle Eastern nations, as well as a primary forum to support regional tourism projects and achieve long-term growth.

In response to the need for local initiatives to drive change, the office will lead UNWTO’s work in various regions of the region, contributing to the promotion of tourism products, sustainable development, and the collection of essential statistics for the sector. Further, it will encourage investment in tourism assets and lead regional cooperation in exchanging data and health policy.

Ahmed Al-Khateeb
Ahmed Al-Khateeb Tourism Minister
Saudi Arabia

“As the first UNWTO office of its kind, the Riyadh office will serve as a beacon for regional collaboration. We are thrilled to host the office in Saudi Arabia. During Saudi’s Presidency of last year’s G20, we took the opportunity to host the first-ever T20 meeting. At that meeting, we committed to work with our partners around the world in developing a strong industry based on the principles of sustainability and opportunities for all. The establishment of this office is a continuation of that commitment. In partnership with UNWTO, we will create the world’s greatest multi-cultural and immersive learning environment, a leading global center of excellence that redefines tourism and hospitality education. The international tourism academy in Riyadh will be a place where faculty and students can discover, create and share knowledge to achieve long-lasting impact on the global tourism and hospitality industry.”

Mr. Zurab Pololikashvili commented, “The launch of UNWTO’s first-ever regional office is a landmark event and signals a new direction for the coordination of global tourism, with regional collaboration at the heart of the approach. This new initiative recognizes that alignment on the regional level is key to unlocking the Middle East’s vast tourism potential and creating social, economic, and environmental resiliency for the sector and its people. We expect that this will be recognized as a model for future efforts to make the benefits of tourism available to all.”

During the global epidemic of COVID-19, Saudi Arabia and the organization collaborated to develop recovery plans for the travel and tourism sector, and this new effort relates to Saudi Arabia’s promises made during its presidency of the G20.

The establishment of an international tourism academy dedicated to supporting the aspirations of the next generation of tourism executives is one of the new office’s first initiatives. The Ministry of Tourism has inked an agreement to use the UNWTO’s Tourism Academy as a platform for generating and disseminating training programs in the kingdom via the Internet as a first step toward activating and developing the academy.

Related: Saudi Arabia, World Bank pledge $100mn worth fund to develop sustainable tourism