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UNWTO Executive Council looks beyond sector recovery, restarts with full force

By Maria Diamond
25 June 2022   |   3:55 am
In a bid to advance tourism recovery around shared goals and vision for the sector, the Executive Council of the United Nation World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) recently met in Saudi Arabia.

[FILES] UNWTO Secretary General, Zurab Pololicashvili

In a bid to advance tourism recovery around shared goals and vision for the sector, the Executive Council of the United Nation World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) recently met in Saudi Arabia.

The meeting, which is the 116th session, was the largest gathering of the Executive Council since the COVID-19 pandemic as over 200 participants from about 32 countries were represented.

This meeting came at a pivotal point for the sector as it learns from the lessons of the pandemic whilst looking ahead to a more sustainable, inclusive and resilient future.

Addressing how the sector can advance priorities in challenging times UNWTO Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili said: “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. We have faced up to a triple crisis: an ongoing pandemic, a climate emergency and now the return of war in Europe. This is why 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.”

Pololikashvili who also spoke about the restart of Tourism said UNWTO laid out its plans to keep advancing the priorities around fostering sustainability, promoting tourism jobs and education, growing tourism investments and accelerating its digital transformation.

On his part, the Minister of Tourism of Saudi Arabia and host of the Executive Council, Ahmed Al Khateeb, 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 Minister of Tourism and Leisure of Cote d’Ivoire, also serving as Executive Council Chair, Siandou Fofana, noted that tourism is united to face future challenges. He however emphasised the importance of cohesion in planning and policymaking as the sector recovers to drive wider social and economic recovery.”

Meanwhile, members of the Executive Council were provided with an update on the work of the UNWTO Regional Office for the Middle East, opened in the capital of Saudi Arabia in May 2021. The office in Riyadh 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 the first major project to come out of the office, Best Tourism Villages by UNWTO. From Jeddah, the UNWTO leadership will visit Riyadh to formally welcome personnel.

At the end of the meeting, members agreed to hold the next session of the UNWTO Executive Council, which is the 117th in Morocco, by the second half of 2022. However two countries offered to host the 118th session but members voted in favour of the Dominican Republic holding the first Council of 2023.