UNWTO to open Middle East office in Saudi capital Riyadh

United Nations World Tourism Organisation office aims to support growth of the industry at a national and regional level

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The United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) is to open a regional office in the Saudi capital Riyadh.

The office will serve as a Middle East hub for the organisation, focusing on the 13 countries in the region with the aim of building long-term growth for the sector and human capital development in the travel and tourism sector.

The move was approved by UNWTO executive council members and announced at the 112th session of the UNWTO Executive Council in Tbilisi, Georgia.

The office will also include a dedicated Statistics Centre whose objective is to become the leading authority on tourism statistics for the region.

Ahmed Al-Khateeb, Saudi Arabia’s minister for tourism, said: “International cooperation and the role of the UNWTO are more important than ever. I am therefore very excited that Saudi Arabia will become home to the first ever UNWTO regional office, which aims to support growth at a national and regional level.

“We hope this will provide a model for future collaborations around the world.  Tourism not only boosts economies, it also builds bridges between cultures and enriches lives. It is one of the only sectors that is able to drive such tangible transformative change, on so many levels.”

Saudi Arabia

“In Saudi Arabia, we are very aware of the transformative power of tourism on the economy and people. We may still be a young destination, but tourism is at the forefront of Saudi Arabia’s vision for the future.”

Tourism is one of the key pillars of the Saudi Vision 2030 plan outlined by Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman, to diversify the country’s economy away from a reliance on oil. The industry currently contributes three percent to the kingdom’s GDP, with ambitions to increase this to ten percent by 2030, welcoming 100 million tourists annually to the country.

In addition to the new visa policy of offering tourist visas to citizens of 49 countries, massive infrastructure investments have been rolled out to the tune of $1.1 trillion over the next 20 years, with more than $64 billion being spent on entertainment attractions.

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