(MENAFN - Qatar News Agency) The United Arab Emirates is set to become a full member of the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) this year, a top official said.
Despite its success in tourism, the UAE is the only country in the region that is not a UNWTO member, according to the UAE daily (Gulf News).
"The government has been talking to us about becoming a full member following the establishment of the National Council for Tourism and Antiquities," UNWTO Secretary General Taleb Rifa said.
The UNWTO has 155 members. Although all UN members are entitled to membership, some such as the UAE, the United States, New Zealand and some Scandinavian countries have yet to join.
To join, each country must nominate a government body, authority or ministry to represent it.
Before 2009, the UAE did not have a federal tourism regulatory body to represent it at international tourism events.
Most of the UAE's participation in major travel exhibitions was through individual emirates and their tourism bodies.
In 2009 the UAE government set up the National Council for Tourism and Antiquities (NCTA) as the federal tourism coordinating body. It is responsible for representing the country at global tourism events and coordinating rules and regulations among tourism departments in each emirate to create a proper regulatory environment for the industry.
The UAE Cabinet has recently designated the NCTA as the national representative for tourism affairs and following the necessary paperwork, it could become a full member of the UNWTO.
"We welcome the UAE Cabinet's decision designating the NCTA to be the official national representative for tourism affairs of the UAE, which will help us to induct the country as a full member of the UNWTO, following necessary paperwork," Rifai told the Gulf News.
"We have almost concluded an agreement, and I have received news that the cabinet has held discussions, and it is, in principal, approved. We are awaiting official notification and would be delighted to welcome the UAE as a member," he said.
Rifai said the US had yet to become a UNWTO member for similar reasons. The US does not have a federal tourism regulatory body or national representative.
"They are now nominating the Department of Commerce to represent the country for tourism as well, which will pave the way for the US to become a full UNWTO member," he said.