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When a Saudi Crown Prince and a Spanish PM talk it could be important UNWTO business

Saudi’s role in World Tourism, and the UNWTO Headquarter move from Spain to Saudi Arabia may have been high on the agenda in a phone call today. The call between Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez today opens room for speculations for the future of world tourism.

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  • As reported in an identical article by Arab News and the Saudi Gazette today, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman from Saudi Arabia talked with Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez on Monday.
  • They discussed bilateral relations between Saudi Arabia and Spain and ways to enhance them.
  • Experts expect one of the key reasons behind this high-level discussion was Saudi Arabia’s plan to propose the move of the World Tourism Organization to RIyadh.

Moving the UNWTO HQ from Spain to Saudi Arabia is not yet been on the agenda of the upcoming UNWTO General Assembly planned for November in Morocco.

A majority of UNWO member states would have to vote on such a proposal.

Was this move stopped or initiated today, when the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia Prince Mohammed bin Salman talked with Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez on the phone?

It’s known that key tourism issues are often not decided by tourism ministers, but by the heads of State or on a presidential level.

Spain is a permanent Executive Member for UNWTO. If a move to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia becomes a reality, Saudi Arabia would become a permanent member. This would be another important step of dominance in the world of tourism.

Tourism is an important industry for both Spain and Saudi Arabia, but without a doubt, Saudi Arabia has been coming to the rescue of this global sector during the global pandemic with billions invested and allocated.

Saudi Arabia is already the host of a regional UNWTO center, along with a regional center for WTTC.

UNWTO members are countries represented by ministers of tourism. WTTC members bring the largest global private industry of tourism stakeholders together.

UNWTO has a relatively small budget. To lead the global travel and tourism industry out of the current crisis needs a very big budget. It also needs a way better leadership on the site of UNWTO.

What would have been seen just a few years ago as impossible, could now become a reality. Tourism-dependent countries are getting desperate. They become desperate for money and leadership. Saudi Arabia can provide both.

Wherever the Saudi Tourism Minister of Tourism Ahmed Al-Khatee shows up, he is the number one VIP. The world calls 911 and Saudi Arabia has been responding consistently throughout this crisis. The Saudi Minister has attended every regional UNWTO conference so far.

The same cannot be said for Spain. Only when Spain realized the real threat of losing the Headquarter for UNWTO, Spain showed up at the recent regional commission for Africa meeting in Cabo Verde. Africa has 54 independent countries, many of which are voting UNWTO members.

eTurboNews started reporting about plans to move UNWTO in July. In this article, eTN alleged the move of the UNWTO headquarters from Madrid to Riyadh would seal the United States of Tourism.

Spain and many EU countries are not as excited about Saudi Arabia taking such a prominent role in the world of tourism. They bring up anything from human rights to September 11, when maneuvering against such a move by the Saudi Kingdom diplomatically.

Such diplomatic maneuvers however played on both sides. Saudi Arabia has been working around the globe and behind the scene to lobby for its plans.

Today’s call may between the Spanish Prime Minister and the Saudi Crown Prince may have been an icebreaker.

The way Spain and Saudi Arabia could enhance cooperation and relations could only be speculated at this very moment.

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About the author

Juergen T Steinmetz

Juergen Thomas Steinmetz has continuously worked in the travel and tourism industry since he was a teenager in Germany (1977).
He founded eTurboNews in 1999 as the first online newsletter for the global travel tourism industry.

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1 Comment

  • This will be, not only an error but a horror. Not only this will be a nonsense, but counterproductive.
    Better be alone rather then with bad company.
    I can not even think about going to this country regarding for a meeting, while I am afraid for the persons who would work there.
    May be if they pay me 1 million Euros a month, I would consider going for a week.