Saudi Arabia’s tourism minister calls for a unified travel protocol post-COVID

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Saudi Arabia’s Minister of Tourism Ahmed al-Khateeb called for unified travel protocols at the Future Investment Initiative (FII) Summit in Riyadh, in a session titled ‘Future of Tourism - Global Perspectives,’ on Tuesday.

“I’ve been on the plane for 200 hours in the last six months,” Saudi Arabia’s tourism minister said in the session, moderated by CNN’s Richard Quest.

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He added that he attended many tourism commissions to “work together to collaborate and cooperate and to work with the private sector because they operate the sector… to have a unified travel protocol.”

“We regulate the sector and they [the private sector] operate the sector, and to have a unified travel protocol,” al-Khateeb said.

“Today, travel is a nightmare. Europe is working alone, we want all the other continents to work together,” he added.

When asked about the Kingdom’s tourism strategy, the Saudi tourism ministry said that in 2020, the country lost more than 60 million jobs out of the 330 million jobs in its tourism industry, adding that “the crisis definitely impacted our industry severely.”

‘Crises are temporary’

Al-Khateeb added, “In this crisis [the COVID-19 pandemic], these crises are temporary, short term… We always plan for long term, and we believe our sector will definitely recover.”

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For his part, Arnold Donald, the CEO of Carnival Corporation and Chair at World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) said the tourism industry “needs the collaboration between governments and the private sector.”

“We need a partnership to do the following things… One: harmonization. So frictionless travel,” Donald said.

“Secondly, vaccinations. First, we have to accept the vaccinations at different places to make it frictionless travel, and secondly, vaccine, equity, so that means certain people can be vaccinated as was stated in the opening keynote,” he added.

“Third thing, after that, is we need tools to make it easier to travel, such as digital passports.”

Going forward, countries need to harmonize and simplify travel, but to also keep the best interests of public health in the forefront, the CEO of Carnival Corporation said.

The fifth edition of FII, Saudi Arabia’s annual investment forum, is taking place between October 26 to 28 this year in the Kingdom’s capital Riyadh under the theme of ‘Invest in Humanity.’

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