IEU Experience


The 22nd World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) Global Summit was recently held in Riyadh, Saudia Arabia. It’s the premier annual event for global players in travel and tourism, bringing together key government and private sector stakeholders to discuss emerging issues and opportunities in the industry.

For this edition, the theme was ‘Travel for a Better Future’, highlighting the industry’s efforts to recover in a post-pandemic world. However, the main focus was on sustainable tourism, with discussions centered around finding solutions that could move the industry toward a “safer, more resilient, inclusive and sustainable future.”

IE University at the WTTC Global Summit

It was a great year for IE University at the WTTC Global Summit: in total, 47 bachelor’s and master’s degree students represented IE University in Saudi Arabia. For these students, it was a unique opportunity to enjoy travel, culture and unforgettable international experiences. 

They were also joined by learners from other leading academic institutions in various cultural activities set up by the Saudi Ministry of Tourism under the Youth Initiative Program

Immersed in tradition and culture

One such student was Ángela Cano Lloret, who is currently in her last year of the Dual Degree in Business Administration + International Relations. After completing an internship with the United Nations, as well as an exchange period in Paris, Ángela was hungry for more unique experiences abroad. So when she learned about the opportunity to travel to Riyadh, she jumped at the opportunity head-first. 

“I decided to participate in the summit because I’m very interested in tourism,” she explained. For Angela, the WTTC Global Summit was “a unique experience” that would certainly be memorable too. She was happy to learn more in-depth about sustainable tourism, as well as the many related programs already in the planning stages in Saudi Arabia.

However, she especially enjoyed immersing herself in the country’s rich history, culture and traditions. “My favorite moment happened on the first night when we visited a typical Arabian camp and learned all about their food, music, dances, beliefs and more.” 

IE University students visit Saudi Arabia for the World Travel and Tourism Council

A vision for the future

Mexico native Alan Calderon is on track to wrap up his third year in the Bachelor in Economics. After high school, he was ready to step out of his comfort zone in search of global perspective and connection—a desire that led him to join IE University in 2020. 

So for him, the opportunity to travel to Saudi Arabia was “life-changing.” Not only did he learn a lot from the culture, he says he also got to meet “hundreds of people from all over the world,” and gain a new outlook on life. 

What’s more, Alan was able to understand just how vital the concept of sustainability was, especially in an increasingly interconnected world. “This trip made me realize how small changes in our life can have a huge impact on others,” he explains. He also appreciated the opportunity to expand his network to include like-minded peers from other academic institutions around the world.

But his best memory from the trip was meeting Felipe Calderón, the former president of Mexico. “He is my favorite Mexican president and a person I admire greatly,” he admits. Alan was able to have an engaging chat with the leader—an opportunity he will cherish for a long time. He met other inspiring leaders too, including the disruptors behind innovative projects like The Line. In fact, Alan was so impressed by Saudi culture and ingenuity that he’s already making plans for the future: “I’m sure that it is a place that I want to come back to or maybe even work there,” he says. 

Poised for impact

All in all, the WTTC Global Summit was a success in more ways than one. IE University students got to learn, network and gain a broader view of their place in the world. The once-in-a-lifetime experience shaped a new mindset about sustainability while opening them up to the immense opportunities for personal and career development available in the region. They also saw firsthand just how important the skills they are building through their programs are to ensuring meaningful change on a global scale.