The leaders of the World Tourism and Travel Council (WTTC) have described Saudi Arabia’s ambition to become one of the top 5 destinations in the world in the next decade as “unparalleled” in the history of tourism and travel.
Opening the 22nd edition of the Summit, Arnold Donald, Chair, WTTC & Vice Chair of the Board, Carnival Corporation, welcomed the nearly 3000 participants to what will be the biggest ever meeting of global tourism and travel industry leaders.
Praising the goals set by the Kingdom to welcome 100 million international and domestic travelers a year by 2030, Mr. Arnold said: “These are ambitions that are unparalleled in the history of our sector. Over the past three years it has been a great privilege to see the progress made here with our own eyes.”
Summit host, Saudi Arabia Minister of Tourism, HE Ahmed Al-Khateeb welcomed the leaders of the tourism world to Riyadh said: “We have the power to shape the sector, bridge cultures, and transform communities. We are fortunate to be in the position to effect change. We must not let this opportunity pass by us. Let us ensure that here in Riyadh, we really do deliver a better future for travel.”
WTTC CEO Julia Simpson focused on the vital importance of nature to the long-term prosperity and sustainability of the sector. She said: “The WTTC Positive Travel and Tourism Report shows tourism from nature generates over $600 bn which provides opportunities for some of the world’s poorest countries to protect biodiversity and their communities.”
In a day packed full of debate, dialogue and the sharing of innovative ideas from around the world, leaders of the global tourism industry participated in panel discussions and keynote speakers.
The Summit has attracted the leaders of the world’s biggest hotel groups and Christopher J Nassetta President & CEO, Hilton Worldwide, told the audience: “We are in a new golden age of travel. Travel and Tourism is an unstoppable force for good. People want to see places they want to interact with people. My advice to everybody is to believe in the power of travel.”
Former UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-Moon was in discussion about the sustainable future of travel. He declared: “Tourism has made a substantial contribution to humanity’s social and economic progress. Whether you belong to Saudi Arabia, China, United States or South Korea – there are no boundaries.
“We need to become global citizens. We have so many problems – health issues, political issues, environmental issues – but with global citizenship we can solve them. Let’s work as global citizens to make this world more sustainable, to transform this world and pass it on to the next generations in a better way than we found it.”
Speaker after speaker focused on a number of key developmental areas to ensure the successful future of tourism. Stephen Scherr, CEO, The Hertz Corporation explained: “You need infrastructure in the various markets and countries. Whether it's an airport that can handle the kind of traffic that you will have or in our business, you need to build infrastructure that is accommodating and inviting for the people you want to be traveling around.”
Indonesia’s Minister of Tourism and Creative Economy, Indonesia H.E. Sandiaga says that when you consider Indonesia and Bali that means sustainable tourism and it means a change in mindset. He said: “The new trend of tourism is more personalized, localized and customized, and smaller in size also means better revenue. This year we are creating three times more revenue from tourism than we had expected with only a quarter of previous numbers of foreign tourists arriving.”
Creating a truly local and unique welcome for visitors was also a powerful topic of debate as international destinations work to ensure they offer visitors a unique taste of local culture, customs and heritage.
Bahrain Minister of Tourism H.E. Fatima Al Sairafi, Minister of Tourism, said: “We have noticed in Bahrain that whenever we get tourists visiting our country, one of the main things that they leave with is the authenticity of the experience they have enjoyed. We have successfully incorporated that in our tourism experiences that we offer in the Kingdom of Bahrain. Those authentic experiences are delivered by Bahrainis.”
Hashil Al Mahrouqi, Chief Executive Officer, OMRAN added: “Today, everyone is talking about sustainability. Everyone is saying protect nature, everyone is saying protect this planet. But I think in Oman we have been prepared for it. What we need to do now in Oman is capitalize on what we already have there and I think we are on the right track doing it.”
The Summit has also seen a number of major announcements and signing of MOUs on the sidelines of the main Summit debates. These have seen Saudi Arabia sign MOUs with Oman, Indonesia and Barbados and Wizz Air appoint Arjaa Travel and Tourism Company as the exclusive agent for Wizz Air in Saudi Arabia.
The Summit is the largest ever staged to date and has nearly 3000 participants taking part from 140 countries. The enormous global interest in the Summit was shown by one million livestreams of sessions on the metaverse on the first day.