The 44th meeting of the UNWTO Regional Commission for the Middle East, organized by the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) and the Ministry of Tourism of the Arab Republic of Egypt (Sharm el Sheikh, 8-9 May 2018), focused on innovation and digital transformation. It was followed by this year’s UNWTO Regional Conference, which highlighted the importance of tourism’s labour market performance under the theme “Human Capital Development in Tourism: New Perspectives”.
Around 6 million jobs in the Middle East are related to tourism and the sector is expected to grow strongly in the coming years. Tourism is therefore ideally positioned as a general job provider, but especially as an entry point into the labour market for youth, and a source of economic empowerment of women through employment.
The "Human Capital Development in Tourism" conference underscored how the direct economic impact of the sector goes beyond tourism, since improving job quality and opportunities in the sector also contributes to the general economic foundations and to build up resilience. Numerous politicians, government officials and tourism experts from across the Middle East gathered for the meeting and looked closely at the need for a comprehensive and regular monitoring mechanism of tourism labour market performance in the region.
In closing the conference, UNWTO Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili stressed the enormous opportunities for the creation of decent jobs and enterprises through tourism in the Middle East and North Africa. In line with UNWTO’s new innovation and digital transformation agenda, he said that “tourism human capital development needs to prepare the workforce through education and training and by embracing technology and digital solutions as educational and training tools”.
Efficient partnerships between the public and private sectors are a cornerstone of such an agenda, especially considering that tourism human capital development is crucial for the competitiveness and sustainability of the tourism industry – tourism skills and competitiveness go together.
The Minister of Tourism of Egypt, Dr. Rania el Mashat, highlighted Egypt’s human capital development initiatives such as large-scale workforce development projects, capacity building initiatives, as well as apprenticeship programmes, all involving remote rural communities. “The Ministry is committed to the strengthening of tourism education and training programmes in Egypt in partnership with UNWTO”, she said.
The Ministers agreed to return to Egypt during the second quarter of 2019 for the coming 45th Meeting of the UNWTO Regional Commission for the Middle East.