UNWTO Secretary-General, Taleb Rifai, congratulated Saudi Arabia for adopting legal mechanisms for the protection of its historical sites, contributing to ensure that tourism and culture continue to develop to the benefit of both. “Cultural tourism – the movement of travellers motivated by the mosaic of art forms, heritage sites, festivals, traditions, and pilgrimages – is growing at an unprecedented rate. These are positive news as the nexus between culture and tourism translates into important income generation for destinations but also for conservation”, he said. “Nonetheless, such growth needs to be managed in a responsible and sustainable manner through adequate public policies and legislation”, he added.
The Saudi law on antiquities, museums and built heritage approval coincided with the recent inclusion of the Jeddah Historical Area in the UNESCO World Heritage Site list, recognizing the old city’s cultural value and unique model with its distinguished urban heritage. Historic Jeddah, the Gate to Makkah, was among the 26 new inscriptions decided at the 38th session of the World Heritage Committee of the UN Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), held in Qatar (15-25 June 2014).
“UNESCO’s decision highlights the Kingdom’s historical position and its rich heritage and shows the depth of the Kingdom’s culture and interaction with human civilizations throughout the centuries,” said the President of the Saudi Commission for Tourism and Antiquities (SCTA), Prince Sultan bin Salman.
The important linkages between tourism and culture are fundamental for sustainable tourism development and will be at the heart of the upcoming international UNWTO/UNESCO World Conference on Tourism to be held in February 2015 in Cambodia, the first ever to bring together Ministers of Tourism and Ministers of Culture to debate new models of partnership.