UNWTO has successfully celebrated the 48th session of its Regional Commission for the Middle East. Returning to Egypt for the third time since 2018, the commission addressed the pressing challenges faced by tourism and looked to the future as the sector’s recovery gathers pace across the region.
According to the latest UNWTO data, international arrivals to destinations in the Middle East were 52 percent higher in January than in the same month of 2021.
In its report, the secretary-general provided an overview of UNWTO’s work in the Middle East and globally for the past year. The report also focused on UNWTO’s strategic objectives and core priorities for the year ahead, including making tourism smarter, promoting green investments and entrepreneurship, supporting education and jobs, building resilience and protecting natural and cultural heritage. In the coming year, several new projects will be directed out of the UNWTO Regional Office for the Middle East, opened in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in May 2021. The office will focus on guiding sustainable tourism recovery in the region, with a focus on rural development and on innovation, education and investments.
In a statement, Zurab Pololikashvili, UNWTO secretary-general, said: “Across the Middle East, tourism is growing in size and relevance, driving recovery and promoting sustainable development. UNWTO’s Members in the region are committed to realizing the unique potential of tourism, and the organization is committed to working closely with its members around innovation, sustainability, jobs and education as our shared priorities.”
UNWTO’s enhanced presence across the region was highlighted through reference to a wide range of country-specific projects and partnerships, including online training in Bahrain, Iraq, Kuwait, Lebanon and Saudi Arabia, a special statistics workshop in Bahrain, crisis communications training in Lebanon and an action plan on women’s empowerment in Jordan.
UNWTO’s Green Hotel Revitalization Programme, in partnership with the International Finance Corporation, will train more than 30 hotels in Egypt in adopting sustainability practices and reducing their carbon footprints. UNWTO is also stepping up capacity building across the region, with a focus on gender equality and youth empowerment.
In Cairo, delegates were provided with a comprehensive overview of the organization’s work in this area, including through the creation of a UNWTO Knowledge Lab for the region and through the provision of a new range of training and educational courses in the Arabic language, most notably through a new e-learning project being implemented in partnership with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. The Kingdom will fund 1,300 scholarships for students from 13 members states to foster human capital development and youth empowerment across the region.
Furthermore, UNWTO announced its close collaboration with the Gulf Cooperation Council, the Arab Tourism Organization, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation and the Islamic Development Bank.
The 49th Regional Commission for the Middle East will be held in Jordan from June 7-9, 2023, while Lebanon will host the 50th meeting in 2024.