MADRID, Dec 25, (KUNA): Kuwait has huge cultural and tourism potential, said Secretary-General of the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) Dr Taleb Rifai expressing optimism about the Gulf country’s eagerness to invest more in its tourism sector.
The Kuwaiti government has recently shown growing interest in boosting tourism sector and even took several measures to use its potential to give impetus to this important sector, Rifai said in interview with KUNA, just few days before the end of his tenure. He forecast that Kuwait will prove successful its endeavor to develop the tourism sector.
Kuwait has great capabilities and resources, especially at the cultural level, the UNWTO official. Rifai, a former Jordanian minister, described Kuwait as a beacon of creative thinking and dialogue. In sixties and seventies of the last century, Kuwait was a hub for creative writers and artists in the region, he said, adding that this has not changed a lot nowadays.
In the Arabian Gulf level, Rifai noted that the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has also increased its interest in the tourism sector considering it a new and important source of income especially after the sharp decline in oil prices. He urged the oil-rich Gulf countries to take tourism seriously as an important investment domain.
On the Arab level, he pointed out that the leading Arab touristic countries, namely Egypt, Tunisia, Lebanon and Jordan have been making huge gains from tourism and beefing up national economies despite the current challenges caused by the political unrest and terrorism. He unveiled that he plans to visit Syria shortly to get first-hand information about the situation in the country’s archaeological sites, particularly in Palmyra. In this regard, he called on the international community to unite to protect historical sites in the war-torn Syria. Rifai holds this position since Jan 1 2010. He was unanimously elected at the 18th session of UNWTO General Assembly (October 2009) and was reelected for a second in 2014.
From March to December 2009, he was UNWTO Secretary-General ad interim. From February 2006 to February 2009 he was Deputy Secretary-General. From January 2003 to February 2006, Rifai was the Assistant Director-General of the International Labour Organization (ILO).
Prior to this appointment, he served in several ministerial portfolios in the Government of Jordan as Minister of Tourism and Antiquities; Minister of Information; and, Minister of Planning and International Cooperation. During his term as Minister of Tourism, Mr. Rifai served as Chairman of the Executive Council of the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO).