UNWTO has marked World Tourism Day (WTD) with official celebrations in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, which saw the attendance of some 500 public and private sector leaders, including 50 ministers of tourism, from 120 countries.
Opening the two-day conference, held over September 26 to 27 on the theme of Tourism and Green Investments, the country’s minister of tourism Ahmed Al Khateeb shared his goal of all countries being able to benefit from tourism through global collaboration.
“About 70 per cent of travel and tourism is supported by 10 per cent of countries; why can’t this sector grow in a more balanced and fair way?” he asked. “I believe we can all advance together – every single country in this room, every corner of the globe. It needs to be done responsibly and sustainably, but the opportunity is there if we pull together.”
“Tourism matters to everyone,” agreed UNWTO secretary-general Zurab Pololikashvili, noting the power of tourism to change lives, economies and societies. “On this World Tourism Day, we celebrate tourism’s ability to drive growth while also highlighting the vital need for investments to ensure such growth is inclusive and sustainable.”
The need is urgent, explained UNWTO executive director Natalia Bayona – up to 25 per cent of tourism staff in the EU have only low-level qualifications; only 26.3 per cent of accommodations globally have climate action plans; and only 2.2 per cent of global venture capital has been invested in tourism start-ups between 2018 and 2022.
However, UNWTO’s comprehensive new investment framework based on the UN’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development can act as an engine for sustainable global tourism growth, she said, adding that “it’s time to diversify and promote investment in all regions of the world”.
This framework, centring on the three pillars of investment for people (in education), for planet (in sustainable infrastructure) and for prosperity (in technology and entrepreneurship), is the focus of WTD, which has been held since 1980.