The Task Force that Saudi Arabia, supported by Spain, proposed to set up to “redesign tourism” after the pandemic obtained yesterday the approval of UNWTO Executive Council, after ensuring that any initiative of this type complies with this organization’s statutes. It will be constituted next spring and will need a definitive endorsement at the next General Assembly.
The UNWTO Executive Council, which met yesterday in Marrakech for its 117th session, gave the ‘green light’ to the Saudi proposal to “redesign the tourism of the future, revitalize the organization and improve its methods of operation”. The proposal, which was formalized at the General Assembly held in Madrid in December 2021, did not initially have the backing of the Secretary General, Zurab Pololikashvili, but it did have the support of Spain from the outset, whose Minister of Tourism, Reyes Maroto, chaired the meeting as representative of the host country to make it “sustainable, but above all safe”.
The resolution approved yesterday specifies that the Task Force will be made up of eight members of the organization, chosen according to their geographical distribution. These eight will join the three co-chairs -the UNWTO itself, Saudi Arabia and Spain– once they are elected during the Executive Council to be held in March next year, and will represent Africa (2); the Americas (2); and Europe, the Middle East, Far East and Pacific, and South Asia, with one representative each.
The document approved yesterday, with the attendance of 31 of the 35 member countries of the Council, determines the mandate, composition and “modus operandi” of the Task Force, which will “meet regularly and in a flexible manner, including at least twice a year” and whose budget “shall be assigned by the Executive Council from any voluntary contributions by members of UNWTO“.
Yesterday’s Executive Council, UNWTO’s highest decision-making body after the General Assembly, devoted four hours to the debate, which was attended by both Saudi Arabia’s Minister of Tourism, Ahmed Al Khateeb, and Spain’s Minister of Tourism, Reyes Maroto.
The discussion dragged on because the legality of the Spanish-Saudi proposal was questioned by more than 10 member countries of the Council, according to diplomatic sources present at the meeting consulted by The Diplomat. It was argued that the proposal violated the statutes of the World Tourism Organization signed by the member countries, as the UNWTO itself stated at its last Council held in Jeddah in June.
In an unprecedented debate in the Organization, in Marrakech the Council finally approved a decision with substantial modifications to ensure that any initiative of this type complies with the statutes governing the bodies of the Organization.
Thus, the Task Force proposed by Saudi Arabia and Spain will be only a subsidiary organ of the Executive Council – not a grouping of quasi-autonomous character and powers – and will still have to be approved at the 118th Executive Council, to be held in May in the Dominican Republic, and ratified by the General Assembly to be held in Uzbekistan in the last quarter of 2023.