Global tourism leaders 'brimming with optimism' after Riyadh summit

The global industry leaders left Saudi capital Riyadh after attending the biggest-ever World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) summit last night with a renewed sense of optimism and shared future goals for a successful future for travel and tourism sector.

The leaders of the global travel and tourism industry left Saudi capital Riyadh after attending the biggest-ever World Travel & Tourism Council Summit (WTTC) last night with a renewed sense of optimism, shared future goals and a stronger commitment to collaborative cross-border strategies that will drive a successful future for the sector.
The three-day event attracted decision makers from every corner of the world as host nation Saudi Arabia hosted 55 government ministers, 250 travel and tourism CEOs and 60 ambassadors who were among nearly 3000 delegates from 140 countries, according to the organisers. 
It was the largest gathering of tourism leaders and professionals that the Summit has ever hosted.
The Riyadh Summit had twice the number of delegates as the last major pre-Covid summit in Seville and nearly three times as many countries represented with 140 compared to over 50 in Seville in 2019, they stated.
Closing the summit, Saudi Minister of Tourism Ahmed Al Khateeb said: "This event has been the perfect example of collaboration, of great conversations that have led to meaningful action. I hope you have all experienced the real meaning of Saudi hospitality."
"In the kingdom we call hospitality Hafawah. We understand that hospitality has the power to unlock authentic experiences that set us apart and that why we have introduced the Hospitality awards - Hafawah," he stated, while referring to the new hospitality awards. 
Thanking the host nation, WTTC President and CEO Julia Simpson said: "The passion, the people, the hospitality we have had has been incredible here in Saudi Arabia. This sector is growing – and it’s going to grow here. This country is going to end up with more visitors than the US."
"Among the many themes of the summit was the positive impact sustainable strategies can have on generating jobs, prosperity and the sustained development of communities that are vital for a vibrant future for travel and tourism," he noted.
A major highlight of the final day of the summit was a special appearance by actor and philanthropist Edward Norton who was in conversation with Fahd Hamidaddin, CEO and Member of the Board, Saudi Tourism Authority.
For the past 15 years Norton has been a UN ambassador for biodiversity and is the President of the Maasi Wilderness Conservation Trust.
He told delegates: "We are in a world in which wars are going to get fought over water. This is one of the most critical national security constrained resources in the world and it’s only going to get more intense. We cannot have tourism industries that are not addressing how they source their water."
"Real local training and capacity-building is a terrible shortfall in most of the places I’ve been. They put local people front of house and don’t really train them. There needs to be a deeper commitment to local training and real local employment," he noted.
In his address, Paul Griffiths, the CEO of Dubai Airports International, said: "We are facing a new reality with the urgent need to embed sustainability practices into everything we do. The end product that we should all be striving to achieve is the delight of the customer, usually achieved by ensuring the interface with our products is as brief as possible."
Mitsuaki Hoshino, Vice Commissioner, Japan Tourism Authority, highlighted the importance of the environment in urban areas. 
"When we design the cities of the future we look to the inspiration of nature; it continues to teach us so much that informs our urban planning," he noted.
"As the fastest growing tourism market in the world and the largest levels of investment, delegates were impressed by the vision and also had the opportunity to learn more from the leaders of the kingdom’s rapidly growing sector," he added.
Carolyn Turnbull, Managing Director, Tourism Western Australia, said: "Collectively we can all agree that our experience here in Riyadh has been extraordinary; to hear of the vision that exists here is remarkable. I will certainly be leaving today to ensure that Western Australia is thinking as big as Riyadh is because it’s quite remarkable."
From a host nation perspective, Hamidaddin said: "The domestic impact and the WTTC committing to $10.5 billion is definitely a clear win-win for both Saudi and these businesses that are looking for growth opportunities across the world."
Tourism Development Fund CEO Qusai Al Fakhri said: "One of the main aims of our tourism focus is to create jobs and drive GDP. Up to 60% of Saudis are below the age of 35. By their very nature they are digital natives and therefore it makes sense to develop projects with a clear technological dimension."
Diriyah Gate Development Authority President and CEO Jerry Inzerillo said: "Of all the world’s greatest cities, the one thing they have in common is that they’re celebratory. They may not share the same languages, cultures, or traditions but they celebrate diversity, identity, and a shared sense of humanity."
"That’s something Riyadh does exceptionally well and that’s something Diriyah will do, too," he added.
The summit saw a series of MoUs and agreements being signed including one with Djibouti, Spain Costa Rica and Bahamas to further strengthen Saudi Arabia’s growing international partnerships and collaboration.
The Bicester Collection also launched its “Unlock Her Future Prize” at WTTC with the inaugural edition taking place in the Mena region in 2023 to reward and empower women social impact entrepreneurs. Each of the three winners will receive a business grant of up to $100,000, said the organisers.
The summit has had a global impact with over 7 million livestreams of the keynote speeches, panel discussions and presentations and has been the most influential gathering of tourism leaders and decision makers in the world this year, they added.-TradeArabia News Service