June 25, 2024
Oman Travel

UN Tourism’s Middle East Members Target Innovation

50th Meeting Held In Muscat

Thirteen member states of the UN Tourism Regional Commission for the Middle East are convening in Muscat, Oman (May 22-24, 2024), with a shared vision of steering the region’s tourism sector towards a future defined by innovation, investment, and inclusivity.

The gathering marks the 50th meeting of the UN Tourism Regional Commission for the Middle East, a platform for collaborative efforts to advance regional tourism initiatives.

Representatives from the 13 member states, including eight ministers of tourism, have assembled in the Omani capital to deliberate on strategies to bolster investments and foster the development of novel tourism offerings.

In his opening address, UN Tourism Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili welcomed attendees and invited them to commemorate the Commission’s Golden Jubilee.

Reflecting on the UN Tourism Regional Commission for the Middle East’s rich legacy of fostering growth and impact within the Middle East region’s tourism landscape, Pololikashvili lauded the collective achievements realised over five decades of collaborative endeavour.

The milestone meeting began in Muscat, Oman, on May 22, 2024. Credit: UN Tourism

Offering insights into the organisation’s endeavours since the Commission’s previous gathering in Jordan in June 2023, Pololikashvili underscored the pivotal focus on priorities encompassing tourism education, job creation, and investment facilitation.

He said: “We can confidently say that the Middle East is a true global tourism leader. This is not just in terms of arrivals but also terms of the region influencing our sector’s development everywhere in the world. It is a hub of tourism innovation and education. And it is a leading investor, backing big ideas and ambitious projects with the power to transform tourism at every level.”

Diversification And Innovation

Against Pololikashvili’s remarks, discussions have pivoted towards fostering a more diverse, resilient, and innovative tourism sector.

Delegates underscored the substantial potential of wellness tourism in the region, reflecting UN Tourism’s commitment to enhancing resilience through diversification. Additionally, the growing significance of gastronomy tourism in driving rural development and preserving cultural heritage emerged as a focal point at the meeting.

In a symbolic gesture, Pololikashvili presented the Omani Ministry of Tourism and Heritage’s brochure highlighting gastronomy tourism in Oman.

Education And Investment

Education and investment have emerged as twin pillars underpinning the Middle East’s tourism landscape. The region has emerged as a nucleus of educational excellence. For instance, Saudi Arabia spearheads initiatives to impart professional education and training to many tourism professionals, notably through the Riyadh School of Hospitality.

The UN Tourism Secretary-General with delegation heads in Muscat, Oman. Credit: UN Tourism

Furthermore, the Middle East’s stature as an investment hub was underscored, with 254 greenfield projects announced between 2018 and 2023, amounting to a cumulative capital investment of $15.2 billion.

Reflecting this momentum, the agenda in Muscat includes a dedicated conference on ‘Investing in Tourism: Opportunities and Challenges for Sustainable Financing.’

In the lead-up to the UN Tourism Regional Commission for the Middle East’s landmark 50th meeting in Muscat, HH Sayyid Fahd bin Mahmoud Al-Said, Deputy Prime Minister of Oman, met the UN Tourism Secretary-General and heads of the attending delegations.

Al-Said welcomed the delegates and expressed gratitude for the opportunity to host the significant milestone event in Oman. The event coincided with the first meeting since UNWTO’s rebranding to UN Tourism.

Looking Ahead

In a spirit of continuity and collaboration, the 13 members of the UN Tourism Regional Commission for the Middle East unanimously agreed to convene the 51st Regional Commission for the Middle East in Doha, Qatar, in 2025, underscoring the region’s commitment to advancing collective efforts in shaping the future of tourism.

As the curtains come down on May 24, 2024, the 50th meeting of the UN Tourism Regional Commission for the Middle East, the echoes of collaboration and shared aspirations will reverberate, underpinning a collective resolve to navigate the evolving landscape of global tourism with innovation, resilience, and inclusivity at the forefront.

Featured image: Rustic tourist huts at Ras Al Jinz Turtle Reserve in Oman. Credit: Arnold Pinto

    Arnold Pinto

    Arnold Pinto

    Arnold Pinto is an award-winning journalist with wide-ranging Middle East and Asia experience in the tech, aerospace, defence, luxury watchmaking, business, automotive, and fashion verticals. He is passionate about conserving endangered native wildlife globally. Arnold enjoys 4x4 off-roading, camping and exploring global destinations off the beaten track.
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