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UNWTO World Tourism Day: Where is it, who'll be speaking and what happens at the event?

Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
Riyadh, Saudi Arabia Copyright Ekrem Osmanoglu / Unsplash
Copyright Ekrem Osmanoglu / Unsplash
By Ruth Wright
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It is expected to be the biggest event in its history.

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Leaders from across the global tourism sector will meet in Riyadh tomorrow for this year's World Tourism Day (WTD).

Run by the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), the event will highlight the power of tourism and explore avenues for collaboration. Government ministers, industry leaders and experts are expected to attend.

The UNWTO is the United Nations specialized agency for fostering tourism as a vehicle for equal, inclusive and sustainable development. Working with its Member States, international organizations and the private sector, UNWTO promotes safe and seamless travel for all.

"We have a historic opportunity to chart a new course for the global tourism sector, centered on sustainable development, job creation, and economic resilience," says His Excellency Ahmed Al-Khateeb, Minister of Tourism of Saudi Arabia, who will be speaking at the event.

"Tourism – as a catalyst for change – fosters mutual understanding, builds bridges and safeguards cultural heritage and environmental conservation, contributing to a more harmonious world."

Saudi Arabia has the world's fastest post-pandemic sector recovery among G20 countries.

What is the theme of UNWTO World Tourism Day 2023?

Under the theme of 'Tourism and Green Investments', WTD 2023 will examine the role of investment in people and planet to secure livelihoods and foster mutual understanding.

"This World Tourism Day, we focus on the vital need to invest in building a more sustainable sector for people, planet and prosperity. 

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," says Mr Zurab Pololikashvili, Secretary-General of the UNWTO.

How big is the tourism sector?

The global tourism sector is forecast to reach $9.5 trillion in GDP contribution in 2023, according to the World Travel and Tourism Council. 

This is in line with UNWTO's forecast that tourism remains well on track to reach 80-95% of pre-pandemic levels this year and is widely expected to exceed 2019 levels in 2024. 

As one of the biggest economic drivers of the global economy, the sector is responsible for up to 1 in 4 jobs worldwide, as well as playing a role in bridging cultures, connecting people and enhancing mutual understanding.

What happens on World Tourism Day?

Marking the most significant assembly of global tourism leaders in the 43-year history of World Tourism Day, gauged by the number of ministers in attendance, WTD 2023 will feature sessions, panel discussions and workshops led by sector experts and government leaders. 

Speakers include government ministers from Spain, Turkey, Croatia and South Africa as well as Julia Simpson, CEO of the World Travel & Tourism Council, and Pierfrancesco Vago, CEO of MSC Cruises.

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