Refining tourism for the future

How to invest better in people, planet and prosperity to deliver a greener, more resilient and increasingly future-proof form of tourism was the focus of UNWTO delegates at Saudi Arabia’s capital Riyadh as celebrations continue for World Tourism Day.

On the second day of the organisation’s conference, Tourism & Green Investments, UNWTO secretary-general Zurab Pololikashvili invited the 500 delegates from 120 countries to identify and act on the big questions being asked.

Ministers unite at the World Tourism Day celebration in Saudi Arabia’s Riyadh (Photo: Kathryn Wortley)

Saudi Arabia’s vice minister of tourism Haifa Al Saud said delegates “have the power to shape the industry”, and that the industry can be “a force for good: bringing people together, bridging cultures and providing prosperity”.

Anita Mendiratta, special advisor to UNWTO, said host Saudi Arabia is providing “a benchmark for (delegates) to follow” in this regard, reflected in the nation’s US$7 trillion spending in development on six giga projects through its Vision 2030.

One project on the north-west edge of the country, Neom, is expected to attract up to five million visitors annually while another, Amaala, on the north-western Red Sea coast, aims to be a resort and wellness destination featuring 1,500 luxury hotel rooms.

Integral to all the projects is the integration of tourism with local communities as a source of jobs and economic empowerment while protecting the environment.

“Social cohesion is very important, and we need to see the resilience we have built in the past few years in our tourism plans. We need to ensure the ecosystem works together to withstand ups and downs,” said Saudi Arabia’s minister of investment Khalid Al-Falih on how tourism investment should be approached.

In building for the future, though, it is vital that stakeholders remember to think global when making green investments in tourism, but act local in retaining their own uniqueness, as people are attracted to the authenticity of a place, he concluded.

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