The global tourism sector must be rebuilt in order to increase the sector’s flexibility and resilience in facing crises such as the coronavirus outbreak, Saudi Arabia’s Minister of Tourism Ahmed al-Khateeb said on Wednesday.
The minister was speaking during a session held on the sidelines of the inauguration event of the UNWTO’s Middle East Bureau, titled: “Tourism Recovery in the Region” in the Saudi capital Riyadh.
“In about 14 months, we lost 60 million jobs, and hundreds of thousands of small and medium businesses closed and went out of business. And we all know this business is driven by the private sector,” al-Khateeb said.
“What we need to think about is to really rebuild a more resilient and a stronger industry that will face a such a crisis,” he added.
The minister also referred to the importance of making financial resources sustainable by diversifying income and investment returns.
Al-Khateeb called for coordination among all countries and for uniting efforts under the umbrella of the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO).
“I cannot understand how Europe is working alone to develop a travel protocol, and Europe is one of the six or five continents under the UNWTO, and the inbound travelers to Europe is about 50 to 60 percent of the travelers, of the tourists,” he said.
“Therefore, we should all coordinate under the UNWTO, under the IATA, and under the World Health Organization, a unified travel protocol,” he added.
The minister said that travel will be a “nightmare” if every region or continent or country has its own regulations.
“Therefore, we have to work together in order to come up with a unified travel protocol that will make our life easy.”
UNWTO announced on Wednesday that it will be establishing its first headquarters in the Middle East in Saudi Arabia’s capital city Riyadh.
The announcement came as the Kingdom pledged to donate $100 million to establish a fund to support tourism in cooperation with the World Bank.
Saudi Arabia’s Cabinet on Tuesday had authorized the Minister of Tourism to negotiate and draft a cooperation agreement to develop human capacity through e-learning with the UNWTO, the Saudi Press Agency (SPA) reported on Wednesday.