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Hind Al Soulia - Riyadh - ABU DHABI — The UAE has obtained support from member states of the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) Regional Commission for the Middle East for its candidature for the organization’s Executive Council for the first time. The voting process to ratify candidacy will take place during the UNWTO General Assembly meeting in Morocco next October.
The UAE submitted its nomination while chairing the 47th meeting of the UNWTO Regional Commission for the Middle East, hosted by Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. UNWTO Secretary-General, Zurab Pololikashvili, along with the 13 members of the UNWTO Regional Commission for the Middle East attended the meeting.
The member states have also agreed to work together on core initiatives intended to harmonize travel protocols for safe and responsible travel and reinvigorate regional travel through the following ways:
• Developing a common framework to reopen international borders; Creating approved Public Health Corridors between destinations to promote specific tourism experiences and relaunch hotspot tourism destinations;
• Implementing a common digital health solution to facilitate travellers’ experience through interoperability and blockchain as technologies to help develop common standards;
• Working to implement the IATA-UNWTO destination tracker, a monitoring system to track health data, regulations and movements across borders and to protect the health and welfare of the region’s 450 million inhabitants.
In his keynote address, Dr. Ahmad Belhoul Al Falasi, minister of state for entrepreneurship and SMEs and chairman of the Emirates Tourism Council, said, "The tourism sector is one of the most important vital economic sectors, and today it represents an engine for sustainable development in many countries of the world and contributes about 10 percent of the global gross product, and one out of every ten individuals around the world works in it. Unified to restore tourism and boost recovery efforts in support of the economies of our countries."
"Thanks to the proactive vision of its wise leadership, the UAE presented an inspiring model in dealing with the repercussions of the COVID-19 virus on the economic sectors in general and the tourism sector in particular and was able to achieve resilience, efficiency and high capacity in reducing the negative effects of the pandemic on the sector to be the least affected and the fastest in recovery globally. The UAE has presented a balanced vision in containing the pandemic and continuing to receive tourists," he added.
He stressed that the reception of the UAE during the past period by tourists from various countries of the world is a sign of the recovery of the tourism sector, and it is also evidence of the great confidence in the procedures it takes to ensure the highest standards of health and safety for tourists, which contributed to high rates of reassurance and comfort, which is practically translated into the high occupancy rates of the tourism facilities, which reached globally competitive rates.
He said that in case the UAE wins the membership of the 36-member UNWTO Executive Council — including three from the Middle East — it will be able to entrench its vital role as a favorite global tourist destination and highlight its efforts to bring the sector to its pre-pandemic growth rates.
"We need to continue and intensify efforts to support the tourism business system in the region by focusing mainly on private sector tourist establishments, especially medium, small and micro companies. Hence, we renew our call to the World Tourism Organization to continue its support to the countries of the Middle East and launch more initiatives and activities that strengthen the sector.
This region is one of the best tourist destinations in the world, and we need to continue cooperation to promote recovery. "
"This meeting is an additional step towards more solidarity and cooperation to enhance the recovery of the sector and to strengthen our preparations for various future changes. The initiatives, projects and proposals that will emerge from the meeting will support the joint tourism work and promote sustainable tourism in our region," he said.
On the sidelines of the event, Al Falasi also met with several tourism ministers from countries in the Middle East region, with whom he discussed the current situation in the region and the means of cooperation in the tourism sector.
The UAE also participated in the opening ceremony of the launch of the first-ever regional office in the Middle East in Saudi Arabia’s capital Riyadh. The new office will act as a hub for the UNWTO to coordinate with the region’s 13 member states on a variety of tourist projects, products and initiatives, according to a statement issued by the organization.
Pololikashvili, presented his report to the Regional Commission. The report outlined how the UNWTO had worked with all members and affiliate members across the region, most notably supporting them in their unique and shared response to the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Egypt was voted to serve as the Chair of the Regional Commission for the Middle East for 2021-2023, following on from the UAE, whose two year-term will end at the upcoming UNWTO General Assembly in Marrakesh in October. — WAM
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