Saudi Arabia to welcome first UNWTO regional office

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The executive council of the World Tourism Organisation () has met in-person and virtually for its 112th session.

This was the first major in-person event involving tourism and the United Nations held since the Covid-19 was declared a pandemic.

The council was able to gather 170 delegates from 24 countries, who all agreed to support the Tbilisi Declaration with its commitment to making international travel safe again.

The body also decided to open a first UNWTO .

The council of the United Nations specialised agency ensures that the organisation fulfils its programme of work and adheres to its budget.

After the session was opened by the prime minister of Georgia, Giorgi Gacharia, UNWTO secretary general Zurab Pololikashvili outlined the accomplishments of the past 12 months.

This included the provision of technical support to members, tourism advocacy at the very highest political level, and furthering the contributions of tourism to the Sustainable Development Goals from within the wider United Nations system.

Opening the meeting, Gacharia said: “The post-crisis era presents an opportunity for our tourism sector to showcase the uniqueness of Georgia and make the country into a leading destination, with the many social and economic benefits this will bring.

“Work together to build a tourism sector that works for everyone, where sustainability and innovation are part of everything we do.”

In his welcoming remarks, Pololikashvili underscored the value of tourism.

He added that: “This crisis has made clear the important role tourism plays in every part of our lives,” laying the ground to “work together to build a tourism sector that works for everyone, where sustainability and innovation are part of everything we do”.

The members of the council confirmed plans to open the first UNWTO regional office, to be located in the Kingdom of , which recently announced its ambitious plans to open up its tourism sector to the world, including through the relaxation of visa rules for visitors.

Ahmed Al Khateeb, minister of tourism for Saudi Arabia, commended UNWTO for “its leadership during this challenging period”.

He added: “We are honoured that Saudi Arabia has been approved as the location for the first ever UNWTO regional office.

“This collaborative approach will help drive growth and build resilience across the tourism sector at national and regional levels.”

He announced that the regional office for the Middle East will opened between this and next year.

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