Saudi Arabia hosts biggest ever World Tourism Day

Zurab Pololikashvili, Secretary- General of the United Nations World Tourism Organization

Saudi Arabia celebrated World Tourism Day (WTD) 2023 last month from September 27 to 28 under the overarching theme Tourism and Green Investments. The event saw more than 500 government officials, industry leaders and experts from across 120 countries descended upon Riyadh for the event, making this year’s celebration the biggest and most impactful World Tourism Day in its 43-year history.

Speakers included Ahmed Al-Khateeb, Minister of Tourism of Saudi Arabia; Zurab Pololikashvili, Secretary-General of the United Nations World Tourism Organization; Her Excellency Rosa Ana Morillo Rodriguez, Secretary of State, Ministry of Industry, Trade and Tourism of Spain; Patricia de Lille, Minister of Tourism of South Africa; Julia Simpson, CEO of the World Travel & Tourism Council and Matthew Upchurch, CEO of Virtuoso.

WTD 2023 was held under the theme Tourism and Green Investments with the aim of fostering global collaboration to examine investment opportunities to strengthen resilience of the tourism industry, steering the sector towards an investment-led and sustainably focused future.

The two-day event saw tourism leaders participate in keynote speeches and panel discussions centred around three UNWTO core themes: people, planet and prosperity. Participants explored the power of tourism and the sector’s role in bridging cultures, preserving the environment, and promoting a more harmonious and interconnected world.

The scale of the event being hosted in Riyadh showcases the importance attached by the Saudi government to the development of the global tourism sector. The Kingdom was elected Chair of the Executive Council of the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) for 2023, and hosted the World Travel and Tourism Council’s Global Summit in Riyadh last year.         

According to the recent UNWTO Barometer Report, the Middle East reported the best results in January-July 2023, with arrivals 20 per cent above pre-pandemic levels. The region continues to be the only to exceed 2019 levels so far, with Saudi witnessing extraordinary double-digit growth at (+58 per cent).

The next annual WTD celebration will be marked in Georgia as it hosts the event next year.