Sheikh Saud bin Saqr Al Qasimi, ruler of Ras Al Khaimah, has officially opened the inaugural edition of the World Travel & Tourism Council Middle East & North Africa Leaders Forum.
The one-day event is taking place at Al Hamra International Exhibition & Conference Centre.
It featured a keynote speech from sheikh Saud, who highlighted tourism’s pivotal role in the sustainable development and growth of the emirate’s economy.
“We want to create an emirate that is thriving sustainably, both economically and socially, for the benefit not just of all those who live here, but for the entire UAE.
“In order to create sustainable development here in Ras Al Khaimah, we have been busy trying to build one of the most diverse economies in the region,” he said.
“Currently, no single sector of Ras Al Khaimah’s economy makes up more than 30 per cent of GDP.
“And in terms of tourism, we’ve witnessed huge growth – tripling our visitor numbers from under 400,000 to over one million in just seven years,” said sheikh Saud added.
Held in partnership with Ras Al Khaimah Tourism Development Authority, the forum brought together government agencies, industry associations, chief executives and senior leaders of the top travel and tourism companies, experts, and media from across the region, in an effort to explore contemporary issues facing the sector and discuss growth opportunities to advance the regional agenda.
Raki Philips, chief executive of Ras Al Khaimah Development Authority, who delivered the welcome address to the audience, said: “We are grateful to the World Travel & Tourism Council for the opportunity to host the first Middle East & North Africa Leaders Forum at Ras Al Khaimah.
“This forum is a proud moment for Ras Al Khaimah as it continues to be the fastest growing destinations in the region.
“Tourism is one of the key drivers of Ras Al Khaimah’s continued growth in GDP and employment.
Guided by our Destination Strategy 2019-2021, we remain focused on diversifying the emirate’s tourism offering; attracting foreign and local investment within the tourism sector; nurturing home-grown small and medium enterprises to create further employment and business opportunities for Emiratis whilst prioritizing sustainable nature-based adventure and authentic cultural experiences.”
The World Travel & Tourism Council is the body which represents the tourism private sector globally.
Gloria Guevara, chief executive of the World Travel & Tourism Council, said: “Around 200 delegates from 45 countries have participated in our first ever Middle East North Africa Forum.
“This region is one of enormous potential, with a wide variety of cultural, leisure and business destinations, a central location in the world and governments which not only recognise the importance of tourism but are also taking action to support it.
“The United Arab Emirates is one of the leading tourism economies in the region and in 2018, tourism in the UAE grew four times faster than the region as a whole.
“Ras Al Khaimah is the embodiment of this opportunity and it has been an honour to share the story and ambitions of the emirate with our global audience.”