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May 25, 2019

Adios Spain for UNWTO?


According to media reports and eTN sources, UNWTO may be on its way to a new home in China or Georgia.

UNWTO’s home has been in Madrid, Spain since 1974, and Spain has been enjoying a permanent seat in the UNWTO Executive Council as a host.

A move planned for a new home within Madrid for the only U.N. agency in Spain may not materialize due to increasing conflicts between the World Tourism Organization and the Spanish Ministry of Tourism under the leadership of Maroto Reyes, minister of Industry, Trade, and Tourism of the Sánchez government

The official version of the issue is Congresos de la Castellana, The Palace was closed in 2012 due to a security issue.

A year ago at FITUR 2018 the former Minister of Energy, Industry and Tourism Álvaro Nadal, the Mayor of Madrid Manuela Carmena and the Executive President of Ifema (an institution controlled by the City Council, Community and Chamber of Commerce) Clemente González announced that the ministry would transfer the management of the palace to the trade fair institution for 50 years and that in one part of the building UNWTO would be located.

In November 2018 the new minister of industry, tourism, and commerce Reyes Maroto and Turespana had reversed this decision and wanted open the lease for public bidding. FITUR and UNWTO had not submitted their tender and UNWTO Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili is supposed to make an announcement at FITUR 2019. This tourism trade fair will be taking place in Madrid January 23-27.

It would take 50-60 million Euro and 12 months to renovate Palacio de Congresos de la Castellana. The building has 40,000 square meters and is opposite the Santiago Bernabeu, a stadium joined by a catwalk during the 1982 World Cup. According to eTN sources the lease at the current UNWTO building expires in June 2019.

China may be a possible new host for UNWTO. At the last UNWTO General Assembly in Chengdu, China celebrated the creation of the World Tourism Alliance, a China-style Global Tourism Organization. If China would now also become the host for UNWTO, it would have a guarantee of a permanent seat in the decision making Executive Council of UNWTO. This very well would complete Chinas move to secure their leading positioning in the world tourism leadership.

The second rumor: UNWTO Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili is finalizing a plan he had all along. This plan was to create a situation in Spain and find a reason to pack up UNWTO and move the organization to his home country Georgia.

eTurboNews reached out to UNWTO, the Minister of Tourism and TourSpain for comments. So far there was no response.

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