UNWTO unveils initiative to transform global travellers’ destination preferences
‘Tourism Opens Minds’ unveiled at World Tourism Day celebrations in Riyadh
The United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) has launched ‘Tourism Opens Minds’ – a new global initiative designed to unite and encourage nations, tourism sector leaders and consumers to be more open-minded when choosing a travel destination.
UNWTO announced the new initiative at the World Tourism Day celebrations held in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia (September 26-28, 2023).
‘Tourism Opens Minds’ will showcase tourism’s decisive role in bridging cultures and promoting a more interconnected and harmonious world.
To mark the launch, global tourism delegates gathered in Riyadh were presented with a special pledge calling on them to work actively to promote new and under-appreciated destinations.
A new symbol for the ‘Tourism Opens Minds’ initiative was also unveiled.
Inspired by the colours of the flags of every country in the world, the symbol acts as a visual representation of working together to recognise the power of tourism in fostering cultural connections and sustainable growth for all.
World Tourism Day 2023 was held as new data from UNWTO underscored the sector’s recovery from the impacts of the pandemic. At the same time, however, research suggests that only a minority of tourists intend to seek new or different destinations as they start travelling again.
According to the UNWTO World Tourism Barometer, global tourism will recover 80% and 95% of international arrival numbers by the end of 2023.
Notably, however, a recent YouGov survey found that 66% of tourists believe travelling to a place that provides familiarity is essential. Just under half of respondents feel uncomfortable travelling to places they know little about.
This is even though, of those who do travel to new destinations, 83% agree that they come back with a changed or broadened perspective.
The data shows the need for initiatives such as ‘Tourism Open Minds’ to encourage consumers to diversify their travel habits, with UNWTO uniting the global sector behind this aim.
The initiative also allows government officials, sector leaders and consumers to help mitigate the impacts of over-tourism, foster mutual understanding, conserve the environment and ensure equitable sector growth.
Zurab Pololikashvili, UNWTO Secretary-General, said: “To ensure true global prosperity, we must work together to ensure that every country can harness the potential of a thriving tourism industry. The sector serves as a unifying force, fostering cultural understanding, strengthening bonds between societies, and championing environmental preservation.
“The ‘Tourism Opens Minds’ initiative extends a compelling invitation for travellers to broaden their horizons and explore the uncharted corners of our world.
“By doing so, it not only reveals the beauty of diverse destinations but also nurtures an appreciation for the cultures and people who call these places home.”
Ahmed Al-Khateeb, Minister of Tourism of Saudi Arabia, said: “Since embarking on our tourism journey, Saudi Arabia has been committed to enhancing the sector and generating an impact beyond borders.
“Our contributions, including pivotal partnerships such as the establishment of the UNWTO Middle East office in Riyadh, the creation of the Riyadh School for Travel and Hospitality and hosting record-breaking editions of the WTTC Global Forum and UNWTO World Tourism Day, underscore the immense potential of the sector when people from across the globe are united and connected.
“The UNWTO ‘Tourism Opens Minds’ Initiative is another important milestone for the tourism sector, and its launch at World Tourism Day in Riyadh is a continuation of our many previous commitments to the global tourism sector,” Al-Khateeb added.
In Riyadh, high-level guests at the World Tourism Day celebrations were invited to agree to a pledge, representing their shared commitment to work together to:
• Make lesser-known destinations more welcoming and accessible;
• Help to cater to and foster an environment that compliments trips to lesser-known destinations;
• To be more open-minded to new cultures and destinations.
Featured image: New branding of the ‘Tourism Opens Minds’ programme. Image: UNWTO