Turning Point For Tourism: UNWTO Executive Council Looks Beyond Recovery

The 116th session of the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) Executive Council Meeting was held for the first time in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. It’s the largest meeting of the Executive Council since the start of the pandemic, with over 200 participants and 32 countries represented.

Members noted that the meeting came at a pivotal point for the tourism sector as it recovers following the pandemic pause while looking ahead to a more sustainable, inclusive and resilient future.

“We have faced up to a triple crisis: an ongoing pandemic, a climate emergency and now the return of war in Europe,” UNWTO Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili said. He added that “tourism is united and determined like never before, and UNWTO is guiding it forward, with inclusivity and sustainability at the very heart of all our work”.

In his report to members on achievements since the previous meeting six months ago, Pololikashvili illustrated how UNWTO is seizing tourism’s unprecedented relevance, including within the United Nations, in national recovery and growth plans and within the wider public and media conversation.

UNWTO charted out its plans to keep advancing the priorities around fostering sustainability, promoting tourism jobs and education, increasing tourism investments and accelerating its digital transformation.

Ahmed Al Khateeb, the minister of tourism of Saudi Arabia and host of the Executive Council, said: “Tourism’s restart in many countries around the world offers a unique chance to rethink tourism governance, communications and beyond. We have an incredible opportunity to set a new way forward, to create a strong future for the global tourism sector, and we must embrace it.”

The recognition of tourism’s importance was further echoed by Siandou Fofana, the Ivorian minister of tourism and leisure, also serving as Executive Council Chair. He noted that “tourism is united to face future challenges,” while emphasizing the importance of cohesion in planning and policymaking as the sector recovers to drive wider social and economic recovery.

The 117th session of the UNWTO Executive Council will be held in Morocco in the second half of this year. With two countries offering to host the 118th session, members voted in favor of the Dominican Republic holding the first Council of 2023.

Members of the Executive Council were given an update on the work of the UNWTO Regional Office for the Middle East, which opened in Riyadh in May 2021. The office in the capital of Saudi Arabia is set to emerge as both a regional and global hub for the sector, with a special focus on tourism education and tourism and rural development, exemplified by its first major project, “Best Tourism Villages” by UNWTO.

From Jeddah, the UNWTO leadership will visit Riyadh to formally welcome personnel.

For more information, visit www.unwto.org/executive-council.

Related Stories

UNWTO Calls on Start-Ups to Join “Awake Tourism Challenge”

USTOA Holds First Ever ‘Sustainability Is Responsibility’ Summit

WTO Committee Condemns Russian Invasion, Calls for Peace

Qatar Tourism Launches New Multimedia Campaign