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August 3, 2020

From Banker & Football Club Executive To Tourism’s Top Post?

Why would or should any individual without or very little tourism experience be appointed to head and lead the World Tourism Organization? (UNWTO)

It ordinarily takes a large amount of experience, talent, and industry recognition to become a candidate for global tourism’s top job, Secretary-General of the UNWTO.

Last May in Madrid, the UNWTO Executive Council, in the first round of the Secretary-General ballot process, gave 3 votes to Mr. Jaime Alberto Cabal (Colombia), 7 votes to Ms. Young-shim Dho (Republic of Korea), 4 votes to Mr. Márcio Favilla (Brazil), 11 votes to Mr. Walter Mzembi (Zimbabwe) and 8 votes to Mr.Zurab Pololikashvili (Georgia).

As none of the candidates received the “required majority” of votes on the first ballot, a second ballot was held. The second ballot gave 15 votes to Mr. Walter Mzembi and 18 votes to Mr. Zurab Pololikashvili.

With Pololikashvili being named the Secretary-General Elect, he now needs to receive 2/3 of the vote from the upcoming General Assembly in Chengdu, China to take office. Or put in a more reassuring way, only slightly more than 1/3 of the General Assembly has to vote no to the former football club executive as our Secretary-General.

As an industry, we should all be concerned, if not alarmed, at how the UNWTO electoral system appears to have failed us. It appears to be a system that is flawed, with outgoing, highly respected Secretary-General, Taleb Rifai, grappling with election results many do not understand.

While the election voting in Madrid is long over, there is growing hope any misdemeanors can be corrected at the upcoming General Assembly. It is not a done deal that Pololikashvili, who from his CV appears to somewhat of a job hopper, if not dilettante with his career choices, will actually win tourism’s top position.

It takes a skilled, seasoned industry leader, such as Dr. Rifai to navigate the UNWTO through choppy election waters with a complex system to work with. All eyes will be on Chengdu, China, to see if the world’s largest single industry is going to be saddled with a new leader with very little gravitas to perform intelligently in this important role.

Vote responsibly, vote intelligently!

Our industry will be at risk if we have a novice taking the reins of our UNWTO. This is an important position, with no room for an internship of the critical Secretary-General role or indeed, backroom deals to be permitted to determine the outcome.

The election we trust will be steered straight under the watchful stewardship of outgoing Secretary General, Dr. Taleb Rafai, we as an industry are depending on it.

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