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Designing the Future of Travel: Global Leaders Gather in Saudi Arabia for World Tourism Day 2023

Saudi Arabia Travel
by Nickolaus Hines Sep 21, 2023

Tourism leaders from around the world will join together in Saudi Arabia’s capital city, Riyadh, for 2023’s United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) World Tourism Day on September 27 and 28. Global tourism ministers and others in the industry will participate in events to connect and collaborate. The location of this year’s event shows how far tourism has come in the few short years since Saudi Arabia opened to tourists in 2019.

This year, World Tourism Day’s theme is “Tourism and Green Investments.” The focus will be on sustainability for both people and the environment as the tourism industry’s economic and social impact grows. Three key aspects will guide the event: mutual understanding, economic sustainability, and social prosperity.

UNWTO forecasts tourism to reach 80 to 95 percent of pre-pandemic levels in 2023, with some organizations putting the total tourism value at $9.5 trillion in GDP contribution, according to a press release. By 2024, tourism is expected to surpass 2019.

“We have a historic opportunity to chart a new course for the global tourism sector, centered on sustainable development, job creation, and economic resilience,” Ahmed Al-Khateeb, minister of tourism of Saudi Arabia, says in a press release. “Tourism – as a catalyst for change – fosters mutual understanding, builds bridges and safeguards cultural heritage and environmental conservation, contributing to a more harmonious world.”

In 2023, Saudi Arabia was elected to Chair of the UNWTO. The country’s Ministry of Tourism was founded in 2020, and leads Saudi Arabia’s efforts to create jobs and welcome 100 million visits by 2030 with the goal of growing tourism from three percent of GDP to 10 percent. It’s already well on it’s way: destinations in Saudi Arabia feature world-class hotels like Habitas and Banyan Tree, adventure trips to historic sites, and unparalleled stargazing experiences.

“This World Tourism Day, we focus on the vital need to invest in building a more sustainable sector for people, planet, and prosperity,” Zurab Pololikashvili, secretary general of the UNWTO, says in a press release. “The day also makes clear why UNWTO underscores the need for investment in education and for greater innovation as the foundations for long-term growth and transformation. This year’s official celebration in Saudi Arabia reflects how tourism is being embraced to diversify economies and generate opportunities for all.”

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