Qatar National Tourism Council (QNTC) concluded its participation in the 23rd UNWTO General Assembly session, where it highlighted innovation and its long-standing relationship with the World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO).

The General Assembly took place in St Petersburg, Russia from September 9 to 13, with QNTC represented by its secretary-general HE Akbar al-Baker and assistant secretary-general Hassan al-Ibrahim.

HE al-Baker addressed the first Plenary Session as keynote speaker, where he focused on the importance of the tourism sector to the

economy, along with Qatar’s partnerships with the UNWTO.

The following day, al-Ibrahim represented Qatar at a High-Level Summit on Innovation and Sustainable Development in Tourism, both as keynote speaker and through his participation in a Member States Panel.

Al-Ibrahim presented a keynote speech titled 'Innovation from Policy Design to Implementation', where he spoke of Qatar’s commitment to innovation and the recognition that “development of any sort, particularly if it is to be economically sustainable, must be underpinned by innovative policy that supports effective implementation and furthers our longer-term strategic goals”.

He went on to praise entities such as Qatar Foundation Research, Development and Innovation, Qatar Development Bank and Qatar Business Incubation Centre, which offer support to innovators across sectors.

He further spoke of QNTC’s function to “facilitate public-private sector partnerships and empower them to work together in developing new tourism products and projects". New laws and policies have led to a number of large-scale tourism projects being fast-tracked, with others being opened to both local and international private investors, it was observed.

Qatar’s policies enabling business and innovation have helped it achieve second place in the Middle East and North Africa in the World Economic Forum’s Travel & Tourism Competitiveness Report 2019.

The assistant secretary-general also referred to the long-standing relationship with the UNWTO, saying: “We value our partnership with the UNWTO and are honoured to support their initiatives as they innovate in the tourism sector... We are committed to creativity and innovation, to solving world-scale problems, harnessing our human capital while maintaining a balanced relationship with our environment.”

To illustrate this commitment, he touched upon the IE University/UNWTO Tourism Online Academy inaugurated the day before in the presence of HE al-Baker, and spoke of the first UNWTO Global Sports Tourism Start-Up Competition, supported by QNTC in collaboration with Futbol Club Barcelona Innovation Hub - the agreements for which were signed in April this year, when UNWTO secretary-general Zurab Pololikashvili visited Qatar.

Al-Ibrahim also represented Qatar in the Member States Panel along with representatives from Chile, Columbia, Hungary and Macao. The panel allowed the member states to share their experiences about projects developed in collaboration with the UNWTO, and outline future objectives around innovation, investment and digital transformation in tourism.

As a United Nations agency, UNWTO is in charge of the promotion of responsible, sustainable and universally accessible tourism. The UNWTO generates market knowledge, promotes competitive and sustainable tourism policies and instruments, fosters tourism education and training, and works to make tourism an effective tool for development.

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