‘People, Planet and Prosperity’ Top the Agenda as KSA Hosts World Tourism Day Celebration

Wed Sep 27 2023
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RIYADH: Saudi Arabia has rapidly transformed into a burgeoning tourism market, capitalizing on open borders, a flexible e-visa system, and the development of diverse attractions. This transformation has positioned the Kingdom as a fitting host for World Tourism Day 2023, an international event established by the UN World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) to celebrate the unifying role of tourism.

A global gathering in Riyadh

Riyadh will host the World Tourism Day meetings and discussions on September 27 and 28, addressing challenges and opportunities in the tourism sector under the themes of “people, planet, and prosperity.” With Saudi Arabia chairing the UNWTO’s executive council this year and hosting its first regional office in the Middle East, the Kingdom has become an influential advocate for tourism in the region.

The promise of sustainable tourism

More than 500 government officials, experts, and industry leaders from 120 countries will convene to explore the sector’s recovery from the economic impacts of COVID-19 and its response to calls for greater environmental and social sustainability. Saudi Minister of Tourism Ahmed Al-Khateeb emphasized the potential to chart a new course for global tourism, centered on sustainable development, job creation, and economic resilience.

Saudi Arabia’s growing tourism sector

Driven by the Vision 2030 social reform and economic diversification agenda, Saudi Arabia’s tourism industry is thriving. Expected to contribute 10 percent to the Kingdom’s GDP by 2030 and create 1.6 million jobs, tourism is a significant economic driver. Globally, tourism is forecast to contribute $9.5 trillion to global GDP in 2023.

An emphasis on sustainability

UNWTO Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili highlighted the need for green investments to build a sustainable tourism sector that benefits people and the planet. The event in Riyadh will focus on three subthemes: mutual understanding, economic sustainability, and social prosperity.

Fostering collaboration and innovation

The event’s broader aim is to encourage global collaborations, explore opportunities, enhance sector resilience, and pave the way for an investment-led, sustainable future for tourism. Participants will explore innovative approaches, success stories, and best practices in integrating tourism with green investments.

Saudi Arabia’s tourism aspirations

Saudi Arabia’s investment in tourism and infrastructure has surged since opening its borders to foreign tourists in 2019. The Ministry of Tourism, established in 2020, aims to create 1 million jobs and boost the sector’s GDP contribution from 3 percent to 10 percent by 2030. Several tourism projects are underway, including luxury resorts along the Red Sea, adventure activities in the Asir region, and the preservation of archaeological treasures in AlUla.

Crown Prince’s vision for luxury mountain tourism

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman recently launched the Soudah Peaks project, a luxury mountain tourism destination set 3,015 meters above sea level on Saudi Arabia’s highest peak. This initiative underscores Saudi Arabia’s commitment to becoming a global tourism hub.

Hospitality industry’s response

The growing investment in tourism is driving expansion in the Saudi hospitality industry. Richard Johnson, the general manager of Al-Faisaliah Hotel in Riyadh, sees World Tourism Day in Riyadh as an opportunity to showcase Saudi Arabia’s progress and its role in connecting cultures, nurturing hospitality talent, and creating international investment opportunities.

As Saudi Arabia embraces its role as a dynamic tourism destination, World Tourism Day 2023 in Riyadh promises to be a pivotal event in shaping the sector’s future.

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