Joint international action, led by UN World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), to support the world’s crippled travel industry hit by the coronavirus Covid-19 pandemic, was now a global priority, said the Saudi tourism minister.
Ahmed Al Khatib was speaking after taking part in a remote meeting called by the UN World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) with the participation of the World Health Organization (WHO) and tourism chiefs from around the globe.
The Saudi minister pointed out the importance of the UNWTO, private sector, and international community working together to develop concrete and decisive solutions aimed at minimising the financial impact of the deadly virus outbreak on declining tourism revenues, reported Arab News.
Meeting delegates discussed the social and economic implications of the health crisis on the world.
Al-Khatib said: “We are confident that if appropriate actions are taken and working closely together, we will be able to implement policies and measures that will help all of us to overcome the Covid-19 outbreak and its effects, protect human lives, and the global economy.
Saudi Arabia, which presently has the Presidency of the Group of 20 (G20), is playing a major role in the co-ordination efforts to tackle the Covid-19 virus pandemic, it added.
During the meeting, which was attended by senior officials including WTO Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili and WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Al Khatib discussed the implications of the crisis of the spread of the virus across the world and its economic effects.
Al Khatib pointed out that this epidemic requires a strong international response and multilateral actions to alleviate the impact on the tourism industry.
He disclosed that the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) estimates indicate the possibility of a decrease in the number of tourists globally by up to 25% this year, which means that 50 million jobs globally are at risk.
The Saudi minister said the kingdom had formed a supreme committee, comprising members from various government sectors, immediately after China had announced the emergence of the new virus at the end of 2019.
"This helped us to protect our society from its effects and reduce infections through a series of measures. As we work in the kingdom and the world to contain the spread of the new virus, we must act quickly to reduce its economic impact," he stated.
Al Khatib said Saudi Arabia has announced plans to pump in SR50 billion ($13.2 billion) to mitigate the economic effects of the current crisis.
"We, in the kingdom, as a tourist destination with huge potential for growth, trust the flexibility of our tourism sector in the medium and long term. But, this does not mean there is no need for more effort and immediate support for the sector," said the minister.
"We are consulting with our major partners around the world, including both industry partners, the WTTC and WTO, in order to ensure our continuation to develop appropriate measures to support the tourism sector in the kingdom," he added.