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First United Nations World Tourism Organisation regional office opens in Riyadh

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By Jane Witherspoon
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Saudi Arabia's Tourism Minister Ahmed al-Khateeb attends along with other guests a tourism conference in the Saudi capital Riyadh on May 26, 2021.
Saudi Arabia's Tourism Minister Ahmed al-Khateeb attends along with other guests a tourism conference in the Saudi capital Riyadh on May 26, 2021.   -   Copyright  FAYEZ NURELDINE/AFP or licensors
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The first United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) regional office has opened in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.

Secretary General, Zurab Pololikashvili, was joined by Saudi Minister of Tourism, Ahmed Al-Khateeb, and Princess Haifa Al-Saud, Deputy Minister of Tourism, Saudi Arabia, to inaugurate the hub that will co-ordinate initiatives across 13 countries in the Middle East.

“It will be one of the most important places to create new ideas. To execute them. For the middle east region, tourism is becoming more and more important,” Mr. Pololikashvili told Euronews.

The opening coincided with the Tourism Recovery Summit which was organised by the Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Tourism.

The event which was attended by global ministers and industry stakeholders, was a key signal that the tourism sector is eager to get back to business after a devastating 18 months.

“I think if we take a second to look back at what role tourism did play, it is the job contributor. It is the job creator. It contributes to local economies and villages and towns as well as urban cities. So, moving forwards we support in the recovery of the economy as a whole because the tourism sector contributes to 10% of global GDP,” said Princess Haifa Al-Saud, Deputy Minister of Tourism, Saudi Arabia.

In 2020 the size of the global travel and tourism market declined to 1.27 trillion Euros. It’s projected that that will increase to 1.4 trillion this year with events like this showing optimism for full and fast recovery.

Greece’s minister for Tourism, Harry Theoharis, told the summit that the recently agreed European digital green pass and co-operation across the wider globe is essential.

“The only way is to somehow establish a common set of rules. So that we need to do is ensure we build from ground up again the framework that will allow it to stand on its own two feet,” Mr. Theoharis added.