The 22nd Global Summit of the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) concluded its work in Riyadh on Wednesday, with an initiative to launch a global tourism index for innovation and future sustainability.
Meanwhile, Saudi Tourism Minister Ahmed Al-Khatib pointed to the importance of Saudi Arabia on the map of international travel and tourism, indicating that the Kingdom’s embrace of the Global Center for Sustainable Tourism was an important step towards achieving carbon neutrality.
The Saudi Minister of Tourism, and US actor and global philanthropist Edward Norton have donated $1 million each to the Maasai Wildlife Conservation Trust in Kenya, of which Norton will be Chairman of the Board of Directors.
In remarks at the summit, Norton said: “The defining challenge of the 21st Century is adapting our economies and industries to be ecologically sustainable and to put the brakes on global warming.”
Norton emphasized the need to “raise the bar higher on sustainability standards for the tourism industry.”
“I’m enormously grateful for the contribution WTTC and our hosts at the Saudi Ministry of Tourism have made to the critical work of Maasai Wilderness Conservation Trust. This organization is a shining example of how frontline indigenous communities can build transformative new economic opportunity through wise management of natural resources,” he told the summit.
Meanwhile, the Global Center for Sustainable Tourism revealed in a press conference on Wednesday, on the sidelines of the summit in Riyadh, the role of the sector in reducing the percentage of its emissions by more than 40 percent by 2030 through radical measures aimed at achieving carbon neutrality.
A report entitled “Developing travel and tourism for a better world” showed that the global travel and tourism sector contributed to creating promising opportunities for societies and the economy, but stressed, at the same time, the importance of finding urgent solutions to the environmental impact of the sector, which causes 9-12 percent of the total greenhouse gas emissions around the world.
Innovation and Sustainability Index
On a different note, Saudi Arabia has called on all concerned government agencies around the world for the widest possible cooperation for a sustainable future for the travel and tourism sector, by working to launch a new global index that seeks to promote smart and sustainable travel.
The Saudi Tourism Authority (STA) will collaborate with the largest industry intelligence and news platform, Skift, to establish a framework for the planned index.
The index could provide thousands of national and international organizations with data that will drive elevated sector services, inform policy reforms to boost and enable country-level innovation.
A statement noted that the planned index has been structured to incorporate international best practices as well as global tourism and innovation indices, and will build on the work of the World Economic Forum, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, and the World Tourism Organization.
It would be based on surveys and data collection, and provide a holistic smart tourism score that measures performance across three pillars – the ecosystem, the destination, and the experience, the statement added.
Fahd Hamidaddin, Saudi Tourism Authority CEO and Member of the Board, said: “As the fastest growing tourism market in the G20, Saudi Arabia is moving rapidly to create authentic, immersive and unrivalled experiences for travelers from around the world.”
“The concept behind the Tourism Innovation Index is another important step in this direction and can give a truly global impact. It will provide invaluable data and insight that informs policy, drives meaningful change and promotes continuous enhancement.”
For his part, Rafat Ali, Skift Founder, said: “Bringing together leading tourism players to share best practices related to destination stewardship, sustainability, connectivity and inclusivity is critical for the industry’s success. We are therefore delighted to collaborate with the Saudi Tourism Authority to look at the future creation of what will be a global index that clearly defines what really constitutes innovation in tourism.”
He noted that countries and regions, who have already expressed an interest in collaborating, included Singapore, South Korea, Japan and Western Australia.