The 116th session of Executive Council of the UN World Tourism Organization will be held in Jeddah on June 7 and 8. Saudi Arabia will be hosting this crucial event. The Kingdom has been proactive in initiating a series of measures to boost domestic tourism and welcome international travelers.
The UNWTO event will be attended by 180 participants worldwide. The two-day event will discuss crucial matters related to implementing the council’s decision and recommendations for supporting the tourism sector. According to the organizers, in the 116th session of Executive Council the council will meet on the first day of the event on June 7. The second day’s program includes a thematic session called Tourism Futures — New Governance and Advocacy.
The UNWTO states that the tourism sector has been highly resilient despite taking the hardest hit during the COVID-19 pandemic. According to available data, in some regions, the arrivals of international tourists are beginning to reach pre-pandemic levels and even exceeding those figures.
The council will debate the steps to sustain the potential drive in the industry in the post-pandemic era. In addition, it will explore the challenges and opportunities that govern global communication.
The two sessions
The thematic session will address these concerns through two different sessions.
The first session, called “Towards a New Tourism Governance: Lessons Learned for a Resilient Future,” will be attended by tourism ministers and high-level representatives of international organizations worldwide.
The second session, called “Raising Tourism’s Visibility,” will aim at enhancing the political and public recognition of the tourism sector. The discussions will be led by the ministers and prominent figures from online and broadcast media, marketing, and business. The session on the second day will initiate a debate on how to take the significant steps needed to put the tourism industry back on track. It will decide what the sector needs in the wake of the changed circumstances relating to governance, funding, and advocacy. UNWTO believes that the tourism sector is the driver of economic growth and is an indispensable pillar for growth and development.
Future of Tourism Survey
A recent survey by YouGov and commissioned by the Saudi Tourism Ministry revealed that travelers want the tourism sector to learn the lessons from the pandemic and make changes to deal with such situations more effectively. The survey also found Saudis were the most enthusiastic about taking either a holiday or business trip abroad. They want to shape their travel plans over the next six months. This is also a reflection of the strong performance of the Saudi economy. The Future of Tourism Survey explored the level of enthusiasm and expectations of consumers in 11 countries, including China, India, South Korea, Sweden, Spain, the US, the UK, Japan, Germany, Mexico, and of course, the host Saudi Arabia.
The survey revealed the following key points:
- Travelers wanted a significant change in the manner in which tourism is handled
- The sector is fast recovering from pandemic repercussions
- 55 percent of the respondents were likely to travel within their country
- 44 percent of respondents wanted better synchronization of health protocols and technology to make travel easy
- 34 percent of respondents wished for greater sustainability in the sector
- 33 percent called for better protection of finances for travelers
- 18 percent of respondents said they are very likely to travel internationally for business
The Saudi Tourism Minister, Ahmed Al-Khateeb, while expressing his views about the survey, said, “The Future of Tourism Survey shows that the public wants 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”.
According to the survey, economic insecurity and rising costs are the critical reasons for declining enthusiasm for travel.
Current status of Saudi Arabia Tourism
Saudi Arabia has improved its performance by 10 points to rank 33rd in the Travel and Tourism Development Index. The World Economic Forum released this index.
“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 will have a crucial role in the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 plan for economic diversification. Consequently, the country will invest a whopping $200 billion in this sector. The spending will be on creating additional tourism facilities and job creation. Saudi Arabia also has ambitious plans to welcome over 100 million visitors to the country by 2030. The goal is to increase the tourism sector’s contribution to the country’s GDP by 10 percent. Therefore, the 116th session of Executive Council will be essential to tourism industry in the kingdom and worldwide.