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    ATM 2021: Saudi Arabia prepares for return of tourism

    The Saudi Tourism Authority (STA) has attended Arabian Travel Market (ATM) 2021 with an impressive stand highlighting the breadth of product offerings and an array of partnerships in the country.
    As Saudi prepares to reopen its borders, STA is showcasing its strength as a leisure destination through an immersive pavilion which brings to life the exciting, diverse tourism offer.
    Over the course of the four-day event, visitors will be invited to embark on their own Saudi journey through an interactive deep-dive into its top destinations and resorts, from the pristine coastline of the Red Sea to the breath-taking heritage sites of Hegra, Alula and Diriyah, outside Riyadh.ADVERTISEMENTAt the event, Fahd Hamidaddin, chief executive of Saudi Tourism Authority, will address travel trade professionals at the Saudi Arabia Tourism Summit, a dedicated buyer forum for Saudi, to highlight the unique business opportunities offered by a country that just opened up to international tourism in September 2019.
    “We are bringing together our partners across the industry to showcase Saudi’s readiness to welcome international visitors, safely and seamlessly.
    “As STA continues to develop Saudi’s tourism offering for local, regional and international travellers, the strength of our presence at ATM 2021 reflects our commitment to fostering a rich environment for building quality partnerships.
    “We are committed, we are confident, and we are ready to open Saudi’s doors and hearts to the world,” said Hamidaddin.
    Since its launch in June 2020, STA has worked with travel trade partners to successfully grow their business and drive visitation to Saudi.
    The Saudi pavilion at ATM 2021 will host exhibitors from across the tourism ecosystem, representing the best Saudi has to offer.
    In addition to dedicated buyer forums and conference sessions with international speakers, ATM Dubai will offer networking opportunities and expert panels discussing a range of key topics including hospitality, aviation and technology.

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    WTTC 2021: Global Summit baton handed to Manila

    Private and public sector tourism leaders have taken a united stand to safely restart international travel at the closure of the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) Global Summit.
    They used the forum to share their experiences from the last 12 devastating months and discuss how together they could safely restart international travel.
    The Global Summit also named Carnival Corporation chief executive, Arnold Donald, as new chair of WTTC, which represents the global private tourism sector.
    Donald took over from outgoing chair, Chris Nassetta, chief executive of Hilton, after three successful years at the helm of WTTC.
    Following the three-day event in Cancun, Mexico, WTTC announced Manila, capital of the Philippines, will be the host of its next Global Summit, with dates to be confirmed. ADVERTISEMENTIn a world-first, WTTC organised the event for the first time since the outbreak of the pandemic – with tens of thousands more joining virtually – while complying with strict world-class health and hygiene protocols.
    Regular testing was made available for all delegates attending for the duration of the summit to ensure their safety was paramount.
    Gloria Guevara, WTTC chief executive, said: “WTTC brought together exceptional leaders from across the private and public sectors throughout tourism at our Global Summit, united in their desire to safely revive international travel.
    “Our very presence here, shows that we can resume international travelling once more, by observing the latest health and safety protocols, which WTTC has helped develop for businesses large and small throughout the sector.
    “Together we have shown that with a united front, both the private and public sectors in tourism can drive change and get the world moving again so that we can start travelling, exploring and sharing our experiences face-to-face.
    “We concluded our Global Summit here in Cancun, confident that together we can revive a sector which will generate the economic recovery and bring people back together thanks to the amazing benefits international tourism can bring.”

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    WTTC 2021: New York prepares for summer reopening

    Momentum is beginning to return to the New York hospitality market according to Fred Dixon, chief executive of NYC & Company.
    Speaking at the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) Global Summit, he explained: “It has been an incredibly challenging year for us all, and for urban destinations in particular.
    “Our strength, density, that energy, became a liability.
    “But we have learned to live with it, to manage it.
    “The past four-to-five weeks we have seen demand begin to rebuild, led by leisure travel – we are now above 50 per cent occupancy among contemporary inventory – optimism is growing every day.”ADVERTISEMENTDixon, however, explained around a third of hotel rooms in New York remain closed.
    The city went into the pandemic with around 124,000 hotel rooms, with 88,000 currently in operation.
    Authorities expect the figure to rebound to around 118,000 by the end of this year – meaning the permanent loss of around 6,000 rooms due to Covid-19.
    Dixon added: “We have discovered that we have amazing outdoor spaces that we have underutilised in New York, and we have taken back many of our streets for pedestrians.
    “We are building a café culture, bringing an energy we have not seen for a long-time.”
    NYC & Company earlier unveiled plans for $30 million advertising campaign, to debut in June, designed to promote the reopening of the city.
    New York’s official destination marketing organisation predicts 36.4 million people will visit the city this year, recovering more than 50 per cent of the record 66.6 million visitors that came in 2019. 
    Dixon concluded: “Travel is going to be a coiled spring; it is going to rebound quickly.
    “We need to communicate clearly and emit positivity – people are looking for permission to travel and they are ready to go.”
    More Information
    The highly-anticipated WTTC Global Summit, organised in partnership with the government of Quintana Roo, is being held in Cancun until April 27th.
    The showcase seeks to position itself as the leading tourism event in the calendar, where the highest-level industry leaders meet with key government representatives to act on the biggest issues across the international agenda.
    This year, the summit will be exploring the challenges ahead and providing a platform for the recovery of the sector.
    Find out more on the official website.

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    UNWTO seeking to restart tourism at Madrid conference

    The global tourism sector is starting the new year prepared to #RestartTourism when conditions allow, with the World Tourism Organisation set to again bring together leaders from across the public and private sectors.
    Tomorrow in Madrid, the UNWTO Global Tourism Crisis Committee will hold its first meeting of the year.
    This meeting to advance concrete plans to ensure the restart of tourism will take place in the context of the UNWTO Executive Council.
    Today, the Global Tourism Crisis Committee, established by UNWTO at the very start of the pandemic as a means to unite the sector and lead a strong and consistent response to the crisis, will meet for the first time this year.
    Taking advantage of the Executive Council celebrated the following day and hosted by Spain, this meeting will be a hybrid event, combining in-person and virtual participation.
    Once again, the committee will bring together tourism leaders from around the world, as well as UN agencies and representatives from civil society and the private sector.

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    Key issues on the agenda include exploring how vaccines against Covid-19 can be part of a harmonised approach to restarting tourism, including through the potential use of health passports and other measures.
    UNWTO will also call on members of the committee to join forces for a global campaign aimed at restoring confidence in tourism.
    During the 113th session of the UNWTO Executive Council tomorrow, representatives of the 35 council members will be provided with updates on the implementation of the UNWTO programme of work and plans for 2021.
    The Executive Council will also explore current tourism trends, including the impact of the ongoing pandemic on the sector and what this means for livelihoods and the contribution of tourism to sustainable development.
    This hybrid event expects 150 in-person participants.
    The Executive Council meeting will also include the election for the position of UNWTO secretary general for the term 2022-2025.
    Incumbent Zurab Pololikashvili will stand for re-election for a second term, while the kingdom of Bahrain has nominated Shaikha Mai bint Mohammed Al Khalifa for the position.
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    International coordination could see tourism recover by 2022, WTTC argues

    World Travel & Tourism Council chief executive, Gloria Guevara, has said global tourism can recover from the Covid-19 pandemic by early 2022.
    However, the timeframe will require a great deal more cooperation between governments, she argued.
    “We can recover in 18 months – but it depends on coordination at an international level.
    “Some countries did a good job containing this pandemic, but they do not have a plan to reopen.
    “You cannot work in silos; travel depends on a lot of partners working together.”
    She added: “It is our role to facilitate these relationships and to help countries to work together to reopen.”
    Guevara pointed to the possibility of opening airline routes between London and Dubai or London and New York to evaluate testing procedures designed to remove quarantine.
    If the world fails to act to reopen tourism, as many as 100 million jobs could be lost, the WTTC has argued.
    Guevara added a vaccine would play a vital role in the reopening of the sector.

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    She explained: “We believe there is going to be a vaccine before the end of the year – the challenge is going to be the distribution of the vaccine.
    “Again we will need the coordination in order to make sure everybody who needs it, gets it.”
    Guevara was speaking at the Future Hospitality Summit, a hybrid virtual conference developed to explore big ideas and tackle the challenges facing the hospitality industry.
    It is taking place in Riyadh over the next two days.
    The event, which promises to be one of the most impactful gatherings of the hospitality community, will be delivered on a cutting-edge event platform from Bench Digital.
    It will provide an immersive live experience, including a virtual exhibition, one-to-one video networking and integrated chat features to all participants.
    More Information
    Future Hospitality Summit is organised by ministry of tourism Saudi Arabia and G20 Saudi Secretariat as part of the International Conferences Program, honouring the G20 Saudi presidency 2020.
    Find out more on the official website.
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    ABTA argues sustainability must be part of tourism recovery

    Mark Tanzer has argued the travel sector has an opportunity to “build back better” following an extremely challenging year.
    Opening the annual Travel Convention, the ABTA chief executive said sustainability must be key to the sector moving forward, but that progress would not be easy.
    Addressing the conference this morning, he said: “We are very much still in the middle of this crisis, which started back in March with the closing of the UK borders.
    “We are currently in the middle of a second spike, here in the UK and across Europe.
    “This means travel corridors have closed down, causing real trouble for the travel industry.

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    “Customer confidence is impacted by this, by both the government advice and the blanked travel ban from the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO).”
    He added: “After a wash-out of a summer season, we are seeing weak demand for winter bookings.
    “This coincides with the end of the government furlough scheme, and we have seen 20 ABTA members fail so far this year – an indication of the financial pressure travel companies are under.”
    Turning his attention to what must be done to turn the fortunes of the sector around, he argued the government must act quickly.
    “Travel is a resilient industry, and we are used to digging ourselves out of trouble – but this is different.
    “The problems we face are directly linked to the government health policy.
    “The FCDO advice has to be changed, and we must move to a more regional approach.
    “We have seen the government is able to discriminate between different levels of risk, as we have seen with the newly introduced three tier system here at home.
    “This must be extended internationally.
    “There must also be a move toward testing, with the global travel taskforce reporting as quickly as possible.”
    He added: “There is no doubt this is the biggest crisis we have faced – but there are reasons for optimism.
    “People are booking for 2021 and may be looking to spend more, as they are unable to travel this year.”

    In terms of sustainability, ABTA has argued the travel industry has an opportunity to rebuild in a more sustainable way following the coronavirus crisis.
    The body has today published a new report which sets out how the devastating impact of the global pandemic has brought into relief the value of tourism to holidaymakers, the UK and destinations.
    Entitled ‘Tourism for Good – A Roadmap for Rebuilding Travel and Tourism,’ the document explains how it is imperative to purposefully rebuild a more responsible and resilient tourism industry that benefits all those involved.
    It also seeks to provide a framework for collaborative action to build better places to live in and better places to visit.
    Central to the report is the belief that travel is a powerful force for good; being both physically and mentally restorative for holidaymakers while also generating significant economic, employment and social benefits in the UK and around the world.
    It also acknowledges the challenges that the sector faces, including the need to accelerate decarbonisation and to ensure that tourism generates greater benefits for destinations and local communities.
    The report emphasises the huge value and contribution of UK outbound tourism, both domestically and internationally, in terms of job creation, livelihood opportunities, social benefits for local communities, support and funding for nature and wildlife conservation and cultural heritage protection.
    New research from CEBR shows that the aggregate global GVA (gross value added) of UK outbound tourism is estimated at $84 billion and supports 2.7 million jobs, while in the UK it generates £37 billion (1.8 per cent of GDP) in aggregate economic impact and 526,000 full-time equivalent jobs.
    For certain destinations – the Maldives, Jamaica, Cyprus, Malta, Mauritius, Greece, Spain and Portugal – which rely heavily on tourism already, UK holidaymakers alone make a marked contribution of more than one per cent of national GDP .
    Underpinned by a series of nine core principles, the report sets out a roadmap to guide a commitment from ABTA to working with its members, their suppliers, destination authorities, travellers and the wider travel industry.
    It also calls on the UK government to support tourism’s contribution to economic development and employment, deliver the necessary policies to encourage transport providers to transition to greener technologies, and to help consumers to transition to low-carbon transport.
    Tanzer concluded: “Tourism’s unexpected standstill has given us a unique opportunity to reflect on the type of industry we want to rebuild, fit for the challenges we face and a contributor to the global good.
    “I believe the future prosperity of the industry depends on putting sustainability at the heart of our recovery.”
    Find out more about the Tourism for Good roadmap below
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    AHIC 2020: Ras al Khaimah outlines renewed investment strategy

    Ras Al Khaimah Tourism Development Authority has announced a long-term investment strategy designed to boost the growth and diversification of Jebel Jais – the highest mountain in the United Arab Emirates.
    The announcement of continued investment underscores the resilience of the emirate and a desire to gather recovery momentum despite the challenges imposed this year by the Covid-19 pandemic. 
    The news was unveiled at AHIC on the Road, taking place this week in Dubai.
    This year, AHIC will bring together key industry leaders and stakeholders in a new format featuring a combination of physical and virtual sessions, which will be attended byRaki Philips, chief executive of Ras Al Khaimah Tourism Development Authority, and Alison Grinnell, chief executive of RAK Hospitality Holding.
    According to the World Economic Forum Covid Action Platform, travel preferences and patterns have changed, leading to renewed interest in less crowded destinations.
    Within this context, a key trend that has emerged is nature tourism, since it offers travellers a combination of social distancing, discovery and connection with nature, all of which aligns seamlessly with the Jebel Jais experience.
    From a broader destination perspective, Ras Al Khaimah’s diversity in landscape and offering makes it an ideal for visitors looking for comfort and security in expansive settings and where social distancing is easier to practice in serene surroundings on the mountains, on the coast or in the desert.
    Various government sectors of Ras Al Khaimah, including RAK Chamber of Commerce and Industry have worked together to identify a long-term investment strategy that will create ongoing funding for the development of nature-based tourism attractions on Jebel Jais.

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    All projects and builds will be developed in the most sustainable way possible in order not to disrupt the mountain eco-system but rather to enhance knowledge and understanding of conservation.
    The new phased investment strategy will focus primarily on developing Jebel Jais as a standalone destination by further diversifying its offering through several new nature-based projects including a pop-up hotel concept, scheduled to open in the second half of 2021, which will introduce unique cliff side accommodation with unrivalled picturesque mountain views.
    In addition, a mountain lodge, located adjacent to the renowned hiking trails will provide luxury accommodation when it opens in 2022. 
    Tourists will also get to experience the mountain from a completely different perspective by winding through gorgeous scenery with the Jais Coaster, a summer toboggan/bobsled concept inspired by the Alps, which will open in quarter two of 2021.
    Adding yet another first to its diverse offering, Jebel Jais will also be the home Sky High Meetings, the first-of-its-kind highest meeting room in the UAE ideal for business meetings and gatherings against the backdrop of the Hajar mountains, slated to open later this year.
    Raki Phillips, chief executive of Ras Al Khaimah Tourism Development Authority, said: “Seeing the tourism and hospitality sectors unite during this period and pivoting in response to challenges imposed by the pandemic has been truly inspiring.
    “We are honoured to be part of this year’s Arabian Hotel Investment Conference (AHIC) and look forward to sharing Ras Al Khaimah’s experience in navigating through these times with a focus on building a stronger destination, as a result.
    “Our road to recovery is still in its early phases, but we have already seen significant uplift in the tourism and hospitality sectors’ performance leading to Ras Al Khaimah having the strongest RevPAR performance in the GCC.”
    The emirate is also assigning considerable funds to enhance the infrastructure on Jebel Jais and facilitate easier access for visitors and improve their overall experience on the mountain.
    Some of the key areas of focus range from public camping spots, night hiking trails to a base jump platform, e-bikes and an electric car charging station.
    More Information
    Find out more about AHIC on the Road on the official website, or follow all of the Breaking Travel News coverage of the show here.
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