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Redesigning Tourism for the Future and the World: A new UNWTO Task Force Saudi Style

The UNWTO Secretary General tried to stop it today, but the UNWTO General Assembly made a turning-the-table key decision when establishing an independent task force to redesign Tourism for the Future.

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Today the UNWTO General Assembly had two Heroes:

  1. H.E. Ahmed Al Khateeb, Minister of Tourism for the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia
  2. H.E. Reyes Maroto, Minister of Tourism for the Kingdom of Spain

Yesterday, the UNWTO General Assembly had one hero – the Hon. Gustav Segura Costa Sancho, Minister of Tourism for Costa Rica.

Yesterday was a win for democracy at the UNWTO General Assembly when in a secret election, delegates from more than 80 countries confirmed Zurab Pololikashvili as the Secretary General for another 4 years.

Today was an even bigger win for democracy when against the will of the Secretary General, the future of World Tourism and the UNWTO was put in the hands of a new Task Force – an initiative brought forward by Saudi Arabia and Spain.

A first indication of what is in the pipeline was discussed at the UNWTO Regional Commission for Africa in Cabo Verde on September 2, 2021.

Like yesterday, democracy won again today

At the ongoing UNWTO General Assembly in Madrid, a proposal to redesign Tourism for the Future, brought forward by the Kingdoms of Saudi Arabia and Spain, was approved today.

Tourism leaders told eTurboNews: “This is a game-changer for the global tourism sector.”

The Secretary General strongly opposed this proposal, since it puts the future of activities to redesign the travel and tourism industry away from his desk and into the hands of the General Assembly and the Executive Council, under a Saudi Arabia and Spanish leadership.

Zurab Pololikashvili thought his own plans were sufficient to reshape the future of tourism and urged the General Assembly not to vote for the Saudi-Spanish proposal. He did not want a special independent Task Force on Redesigning Tourism.

Secretary of Tourism, H.E. Najib Balala from Kenya, the Saudi Arabia Minister of Tourism H.E. Mr. Ahmed Al Khateeb, and the Minister of Tourism for Jamaica H.E. Edmund Bartlett were all smiles in this photo taken today after the vote.

Approved: The Redesigning Tourism for the Future Task Force

UNWTO delegates agreed, this was a big victory for World Tourism.

The COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated, as never before, the vital economic and social role that tourism plays worldwide. Tourism is a major driver of the global economy, but the pandemic has had a devastating impact globally and has gravely affected this vital sector, reducing the socioeconomic value it creates. 62 million jobs and US$4 trillion in GDP have been lost in 2020. The world needs to take action to avoid this happening again and to reinvigorate this important sector.

For the sector to recover, flourish, and become resilient to future global shocks, it needs change, commitment, and investment to benefit people worldwide, especially in developing countries. To reposition the tourism sector more prominently on a global scale, we need greater international collaboration and empowered international organizations. This would ensure an integrated and coordinated approach that embraces tourism’s interconnected and interrelated nature and
maximizes the sector’s contribution to the achievement of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. lt is now time to Redesign Tourism for the Future through change, commitment, and investment.

As an active champion of tourism that seeks to work globally with other interested governments and private sector entities, Saudi Arabia demonstrates its commitment to driving collaboration across all levels a commitment that lies at the heart of the Diriyah Communiqué signed during Saudi Arabia’s G20 Presidency in 2020, which recognizes the important role public-private partnerships play in the tourism sector.
Not only is Saudi Arabia committed, it is also ready to provide essential resources to strengthen the sector based on the principles of sustainability and opportunities for all, working with and through multilateral institutions. As the world’s biggest single investor in tourism, Saudi Arabia has pledged USD 100 million to activate the Tourism Community Initiative through the World Bank, as a catalyst of sector recovery, by enabling communities through human and institutional capacity building programs to spread the economic benefits of tourism.

Saudi Arabia has been an active partner of the UNWTO, supporting important initiatives including the UNWTO Academy and UNWTO Best Villages Program as well as being the home of the UNWTO Regional Office, which opened in May 2021.

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia presents the UNWTO and its Members with a proposal to redesign tourism for the future together, including by establishing a Redesigning Tourism for the Future Task Force. This proposal aims to unite the public and private sectors, empower multilateral organizations, and increase collaboration among stakeholders to safeguard against future challenges. The Redesigning Tourism for the Future Task Force also aims to reinvigorate the UNWTO by, inter alia,
considering changes to the UNWTO’s current working methods, and/or other reforms of the UNWTO.

The Redesigning Tourism for the Future Task Force

The Redesigning Tourism for the Future Task Force would be composed of one Member State selected by each of the Regional Commissions plus a chair. Building on Saudi Arabia’s demonstrated commitment to the development of the sector, and its proposal to Redesign Tourism for the Future, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia offers itself to chair the Redesigning Tourism for the Future Task Force.

The Resolution by Spain and Saudi Arabia.

The General Assembly: Resolution approved December 2, 2021

  • Noting that the Minister of Tourism of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, H.E. Mr. Ahmed Al Khateeb, has informed the Secretary-General of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’s proposal to Redesign Tourism for the Future and that this proposal includes establishing a Redesigning Tourism for the Future Task Force,
  • Having examined the information submitted by the Secretary-General on the proposal,
  • Reflecting that the world needs action as the importance of tourism has been reinforced by the COVID-19 pandemic and that the pandemic’s devastating impacts are still being felt, especially in developing countries, to which the UNWTO Statutes make special reference,
  • Recalling that the socioeconomic impact of tourism has been wide-ranging and substantial. and that multilateral collaboration is essential to strengthen the sector,
  • Recalling that pursuant to Article 12(j) of the Statutes of the UNWTO, the General Assembly can establish any technical or regional body which may become necessary,
  1. Recognizes the strategic importance of working with all UNWTO Members on key
    initiatives to Redesign Tourism for the Future with a focus on change, commitment,
    and investment;
  2. Recognizes the importance of committing to Redesign Tourism for the Future to
    benefit all;
  3. Recalls that the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia currently hosts a Regional Office of the
    UNWTO in Riyadh, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia;
  4. Resolves to establish a task force within the UNWTO named the Redesigning
    Tourism for the Future Task Force;
  5. Resolves to mandate the Redesigning Tourism for the Future Task Force in
    accordance with this proposal of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia;
  6. Decides that the mandate of the Redesigning Tourism for the Future Task Force will
    continue until the 26th session of the General Assembly and will renew automatically unless decided otherwise by a majority of Full Member States present and voting;
  7. Decides that the Redesigning Tourism for the Future Task Force will be composed of
    one Member State selected by each of the Regional Commissions plus a chair. lf a
    Regional Commission has not identified its Task Force member by the end of the first quarter of 2022, then the chair shall invite a Member State from that Regional
    Commission to join the Task Force;
  8. Appoints the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia as chair of the Redesigning Tourism for the
    Future Task Force;
  9. Authorizes the Redesigning Tourism for the Future Task Force to adopt its own rules
    of procedure as needed;
  10. Urges the Redesigning Tourism for the Future Task Force to commence its work as
    soon as possible and no later than the end of the first quarter of 2022;
  11. Invites the Redesigning Tourism for the Future Task Force to submit reports and
    recommendations periodically to the Executive Council and the General Assembly,
    as it may consider appropriate.

l. Proposal to Redesign Tourism for the Future

  1. By a letter dated 25 October 2021, the Minister of Tourism of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, H.E. Mr. Ahmed Al Khateeb, informed the Secretary-General of the proposal of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to work in collaboration with international partners to redesign tourism to unite the public and private sectors, empower multilateral organizations and increase collaboration between stakeholders to safeguard against future challenges through a range of measures, including establishing within the UNWTO a task force to redesign tourism for the future (the “Redesigning Tourism for the Future Task Force”).
    A copy of the letter is attached to the present document as Annex l.
  2. At the request of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the Secretary-General hereby submits this proposal to Redesign Tourism for the Future including establishing the Redesigning Tourism for the Future Task Force, for decision by the General Assembly of the UNWTO, in accordance with Rules 38(1) and 40 of the Rules of Procedure of the General Assembly.

II. The Need for Action

  1. Tourism is a major driver of the global economy, but the COVID-19 pandemic has had a devastating impact globally and has gravely affected this vital sector, reducing the socioeconomic value it creates. 62 million jobs, and USD 4 trillion in annual GDP have been lost in 2020. All countries have suffered. But this impact has fallen disproportionately on the developing world.
  2. The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia recognizes that current global policy does not reflect the farreaching importance of the tourism sector and it is time for this to change. Tourism is a major driver of the global economy. Before the pandemic hit, 10.4% of global GDP was generated by travel and tourism and 1 in 4 new jobs were created by the tourism sector.
    The pandemic has had a devastating impact globally and has seriously affected this vital sector, reducing the socioeconomic value it creates.
  3. For the sector to recover, flourish and become resilient to future global shocks, it needs change, commitment and investment to benefit people worldwide, and especially in developing countries. To reposition the tourism sector more prominently on a global scale, we need greater international collaboration and empowered international organizations.
    This will ensure a more integrated and coordinated approach that embraces tourism’s interconnected and interrelated nature and maximizes the sector’s contribution to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.

III. Mandate of the Redesigning Tourism for the Future Task Force

  1. In order to address the above, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia proposes that the UNWTO establish the Redesigning Tourism for the Future Task Force.
  2. The Redesigning Tourism for the Future Task Force shall be mandated to:
    i. reinvigorate the UNWTO by, inter alia, considering changes to the UNWTO’s
    current working methods, as well as the establishment of improved programs and
    initiatives, to ensure that the UNWTO can service the existing and future needs of
    the tourism sector, particularly in relation to the developing world;
    ii. take under consideration measures that respond to global calls for a UNWTO that
    provides its Member States with materially improved programs and initiatives, that
    it is capable of executing with tangible and measurable outcomes which are
    designed to serve the future, that caters to the needs of all Member States
    including developing States and that aligns with the three key pillars of Redesigning
    Tourism for the Future: sustainability, resilience and inclusivity; and
    iii. encourage and ensure the meaningful participation of non-State stakeholders in
    the redesign of the global tourism sector.
  3. This mandate of the Redesigning Tourism for the Future Task Force aligns with the UNWTO’s aims and purposes.
  4. In order to ensure the Redesigning Tourism for the Future Task Force can satisfy its
    mandate, it shall continue until at least the 26th (ordinary) session of the General Assembly of the UNWTO. The Redesigning Tourism for the Future Task Force mandate shall be renewed automatically, unless decided otherwise by a majority of Full Member States present and voting.

IV. Saudi Arabia: Calling to Reshape the Future of Tourism Together

  1. As an active champion of tourism, Saudi Arabia demonstrates its commitment to driving collaboration across all levels a commitment that lies at the heart of the Diriyah Communiqué signed during Saudi Arabia’s G20 Presidency in 2020, which recognizes the important role public- private partnerships play in the tourism sector.
  2. Saudi Arabia has been an active partner of the UNWTO, supporting important initiatives including the UNWTO Academy and UNWTO Best Villages Program as well as being the home of the UNWTO Regional Office opened in May 2021.
  3. As the world’s biggest single investor in tourism, Saudi Arabia has pledged USD 100 million to activate the Tourism Community Initiative through the World Bank as a catalyst of sector recovery by enabling communities through human and institutional capacity building programs to spread the economic benefits of tourism.
  4. The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has successfully held a leadership role within the UNWTO.
    In addition to hosting a Regional Office of the UNWTO, this year the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia co-hosted the Global Tourism Crisis Committee Meeting of the UNWTO, as well as the 47th meeting of UNWTO Regional Commission for the Middle East. The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has also served on several committees and organs of the UNWTO, including as the current Second Vice-Chair of the Executive Council.
  5. As part of its demonstrated commitment to Redesign Tourism for the Future, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has offered to chair the Redesigning Tourism for the Future Task Force.

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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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