Regional Department for the Middle East
The UNWTO Regional Department for the Middle East directs the Organization's activities across the region.
The Middle East is one of the fastest-growing tourism regions of the world. Tourism is helping countries diversity their economies, creating jobs and supporting businesses at every stage of the value chain. The sector is also a leading driver of equality and opportunity across the Middle East. It is a leading employer of women, of youth and a pillar of sustainable development, including for rural communities and indigenous populations.
The UNWTO Regional Department for the Middle East works closely with its 13 Member States (and one Observer) and more than 25 Affiliate Members across the region to grow tourism sustainably and responsibly. Tailored Technical Assistance packages help destinations build on their tourism potential. At the same time, advancing innovation and promoting start-ups and entrepreneurship, ensures that tourism in the Middle East is open, inclusive and in line with global trends.
As tourism in Middle East grows, UNWTO is expanding its presence in the region. A first Regional Office in the Middle East, located in Saudi Arabia, will bring UNWTO closer to its Members and serve as a hub for tourism education and skills development. The Regional Office will also serve as a leading hub for advancing tourism’s potential for rural development and creating opportunity outside of big cities.
UNWTO’s programme of activities in the Middle East is built around the following five strategic objectives, which are all closely linked to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and in line with the core UNWTO priorities:
- Boost competitiveness by promoting accessibility and innovation;
- Enlist key private sector players, promote PPPs (public-private partnerships), entrepreneurship and develop collaborative platforms;
- Enhance decent jobs creation through institutional development and capacity building;
- Strengthen safety, security and resilience, facilitate travel, crisis communication, consolidate recovery and sustain growth through shocks; and
- Protect cultural, social and environmental heritage and promote sustainable tourism policies.
Regional Response to COVID-19 pandemic
The key priorities of the UNWTO Regional Department for the Middle East have been realigned to ensure a swift and resilient recovery from the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.
In the immediate future, support for Member States in the region will focus on “Promoting Intra-Regional and Domestic Tourism”.
The main actions being undertaken at the political level in times of pandemic crisis will:
- Reinforce the political will to support the tourism sector
- Strengthen collaboration between Middle East Member States and encourage political leaders work together in their response to COVID-19
- Mainstream the tourism industry in national agendas
- Rebuild trust, advocate for the Middle East and restore awareness of destinations
- Foster travel facilitation
- Create public-private partnerships to support reconstruction and address debt stress
- Facilitate the creation of investment funds to support regional tourism stakeholders
Actions being carried out at the technical level in times of pandemic crisis will:
- Offer more capacity-building opportunities and promote skills development (especially in crisis management, communication and digital skills)
- Provide assistance in developing health protocols adapted to the reality on the ground
- Provide technical guidance in reframing existing marketing strategies
- Support SMEs
- Contribute to the formulation of COVID-19 socio-economic recovery plans