The Secretary-General of the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), Zurab Pololikashvili, emphasized that tourism is a diverse but united sector in its commitment to sustainability and highlighted the importance of investment in green tourism. "Tourism and Green Investments make it clear what our sector needs to fulfill our sustainability ambitions," he said.
Riyadh, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia - In a vibrant celebration of World Tourism Day 2023, the Secretary-General of the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), Zurab Pololikashvili, emphasized the importance of tourism as a driver of development and called for global cooperation in favor of sustainability. The event, which took place in Riyadh, brought together more than 50 Ministers of Tourism, business leaders, community representatives, and media from around the world, totaling 500 participants.
Pololikashvili began his speech by expressing his honor in welcoming those present at this celebration of World Tourism Day. He emphasized that this day is a call to action to highlight why tourism matters to everyone, everywhere in the world.
The Secretary-General highlighted that tourism is a diverse sector but united in its commitment to sustainability and emphasized the importance of green investments. "Tourism and Green Investments make it clear what our sector needs to fulfill our sustainability ambitions," he stated.
The speech focused on the challenges and opportunities facing the tourism sector, encouraging those present to ask important questions and seek joint solutions. Pololikashvili stressed that this day should be a day of cooperation and friendship among nations.
Reflecting on his own history with Saudi Arabia, the Secretary-General recalled his first visit to the country in 2018, shortly after taking office. He highlighted the meeting with Minister Ahmed Al Khateeb and how their friendship quickly formed due to the enthusiasm and belief in the power of tourism held by Minister Al Khateeb.
Pololikashvili also praised the vision and ambition of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman Al Saud, who shared with him his Vision 2030 and detailed concrete tourism projects being developed in the country.
The Secretary-General praised Saudi Arabia's commitment to tourism, recalling that the country officially opened its doors to international tourists in 2019, coinciding with World Tourism Day. This opening included the launch of the first electronic tourist visa, which Pololikashvili personally obtained in a symbolic gesture.
The speech highlighted Saudi Arabia's achievements in tourism development, such as the rapid construction of the UNWTO Regional Office for the Middle East during the pandemic and the recognition of 116 rural destinations as "Best Tourism Villages," including Al-Ula in the Kingdom.
Finally, Pololikashvili praised ambitious tourism development projects in Saudi Arabia, such as Neom and the Red Sea Development Project, highlighting that the country has gone from being an unknown destination to a must-visit in less than five years.
The celebration of World Tourism Day in Riyadh was an opportunity to showcase the country's achievements in the tourism sector and to promote international cooperation in the pursuit of sustainable and ever-evolving tourism.
Message from the United Nations Secretary-General, António Guterres: A Call for Investment in Sustainable Tourism
In a passionate and committed message, the United Nations Secretary-General, António Guterres, joined the celebration of World Tourism Day in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, emphasizing the importance of investing in sustainable tourism as key to a better future for all.
Guterres warned of the growing threat posed by the climate emergency to communities and economies dependent on tourism. He emphasized that green investments play a fundamental role in building a tourism sector that benefits both people and the planet. "Investing in sustainable tourism is investing in a better future for all," he emphasized.
The UN Secretary-General called for concrete actions to address the environmental and climate challenges facing the tourism industry. His message resonated with the global audience gathered in Riyadh to celebrate World Tourism Day.
Furthermore, the presence of Julia Simpson, CEO of the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC), was highlighted, as she participated in the event and contributed to discussions on the sustainable future of global tourism.