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Saudia Arabia, looking to ramp up its tourism efforts to diversify away from an oil economy, has appointed Gloria Guevara Manzo to a top advisory role.

Manzo most recently held the high profile job of CEO of the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC). She resigned earlier this month and was replaced by Julia Simpson. 

In making the appointment, Saudi Tourism Minister Ahmed Al Khateeb this week praised Manzo’s credentials.

“Saudi Arabia’s tourism industry has incredible potential and is already supporting economic growth and job creation across the kingdom.”

“We have a strong national heritage and thousands of unique stories to be told. Gloria brings international expertise and a tremendous global network from her time representing the global tourism and travel sector as the CEO of WTTC and direct experience with evolving a nascent tourism industry from her time as Secretary of Tourism in Mexico, that will help us as our large-scale investment in tourism moves to the next level.”

Of course, Saudi Arabia historically struggled to win over both domestic and international tourists due to societal limitations, including a strict no-drinking policy and severe restrictions for women, as well as allegations of human rights abuses against journalists.

Riyadh also hadn’t welcomed international tourists for so long that its infrastructure remained underdeveloped. Even locals complained of a lack of venues.

Manzo tweeted after her appointment that “this country has the foundation and unique assets to become a tourism superpower and well known global destination.”

At the WTTC Manzo was credited for having reinforced the importance of the travel industry’s economic power over the past year and establishing an industry-recognized “Safe Travels” stamp, in spite of a perceived inability to transition from a volume-based metric to measure travel’s success which had dominated pre-Covid and caused a negative impact on destinations.

Photo Credit: Gloria Guevara Manzo (pictured), the former head of the World Travel and Tourism Council, is now an adviser to Saudi Arabia on tourism. WTTC / Flickr