The World Travel Market (WTM) in London is seen by many as the most important global tourism industry event together with ITB Berlin. The United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) for many years was seen the gatekeeper and utmost authority in the World about tourism. Not this year.
The previous UNWTO Secretary Taleb Rifai had a hands-on approach traveling the world and never left out an important opportunity to demonstrate great understanding, mentorship, and left no opportunity to connect people showing how much he cares about the largest industry in the world – travel & tourism. He built the largest and most influential network of tourism leaders based on trust and friendship. Now retired, Rifai was seen at this year’s World Travel Market. He spoke at key events on the sideline of WTM sharing his wisdom, influence and strong leadership.
Yesterday UNWTO was holding a ministerial summit on investment and innovation with many tourism ministers attending and CNN Richard Quest hired to moderate and keeping the event engaged and informative.
Who was missing this year was the man himself, the UNWTO Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili. His deputy addressed the ministerial summit but had no mentioning or reason for Pololikahvli not showing up. eTN received many angry “off the record” comments from ministers and key stakeholders saying UNWTO has no leadership anymore and became an institution or statistics. UNWTO was not mentioned at key events and appeared to have often vanished. The close partnership between UNWTO and WTTC was not brought up, but it appears other organizations are now gaining leadership in the world of tourism.
Rumors say Zurab didn’t want to face burning media questions about his unique and questionable leadership, others say he was busy campaigning in his home country Georgia for upcoming elections. As usual, there were no comments by UNWTO officials, and no press-conference is scheduled during WTM.
Others say an anonymous letter with devastating content questioning his ability to lead was circulated to many ministers and UNWTO members.
The official excuse for Zurab staying home: He had to attend government meetings in Spain over the new headquarters!
Last year WTM London sparked a million meetings, resulting in around £3 billion in contracts. If one has a game-changing travel product or service, this is where you tell the world.
A large number of tourism ministers attended and debated with members of the private industry. The Twitter ID #ideasarrivehere didn’t result in many comments, some say a tag #And go no further should have been added – and all of this wasn’t about CNN Richard Quest not doing a good job – he did.
eTN is interested in the anonymous letter and anyone wanting to share can also remain anonymous.
There was no response from UNWTO.