Saudi Arabia; World Bank pledge $100mn fund to revive global tourism sector hit by COVID-19

Minister of Tourism Ahmed Al-Khateeb announced on Wednesday that Saudi Arabia; in partnership with the World Bank; has pledged $100 million to establish the International Fund for Comprehensive Tourism.

The minister made the announcement during a session held on the sidelines of the inauguration event of the UNWTO’s Middle East Bureau; titled: “Tourism Recovery in the Region” in Riyadh.

The fund will be the first global fund dedicated specifically to spur global tourism growth; as it aims to support and build human and institutional capacities in order to spread the maximum benefit from the tourism sector; Al-Khateeb said.

The global tourism sector must be rebuilt in order to increase the sector’s flexibility and resilience in facing crises such as the coronavirus outbreak; Al-Khateeb added.

Impact on tourism

Expressing his concerns over the negative impact of the pandemic on the tourism sector; the Saudi minister also said: “In about 14 months; we lost 60 million jobs; and hundreds of thousands of small and medium businesses closed and went out of business. And we all know this business is also driven by the private sector.”

He added: “What we need to think about is to really rebuild a more resilient and a stronger industry that will face such a crisis.”

Al-Khateeb also underlined the importance of making financial resources sustainable by diversifying income and investment returns.

He called for coordination among all countries and for uniting efforts under the umbrella of the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO).

“I also cannot understand how Europe is working alone to develop a travel protocol; and Europe is one of the six or five continents under the UNWTO; and the inbound travelers to Europe is about 50 to 60 percent of the travelers; of the tourists;” he said.

“Therefore; we should all coordinate under the UNWTO; under the IATA; and further under the World Health Organization; a unified travel protocol;” he added.

The minister said that travel will be a “nightmare” if every region or continent or country has its own regulations. “Therefore; we have to work together in order to come up with a unified travel protocol that will also make our life easy.”

UNWTO also announced on Wednesday that it will also be establishing its first headquarters in the Middle East in Saudi Arabia’s capital city Riyadh.