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June 18, 2021

Positioning delivery of tourism performance over personal profile

What does it take to lead the world’s largest, most comprehensive tourism community? This is the question that many are trying to answer as the race for the next head of the UNWTO heats up for the role of Secretary General.

So far, a number of very capable tourism leaders and personalities have stepped forward with their candidacy, the process requiring their nations formally submit their nominations. To date, four continents have shown interest with names: Africa with two, Asia, the Americas one, and one from Europe. With the official date for closure of nominations still two weeks off, perhaps new names will be added to the final list for panel review of qualifications.

The race for the top job will have significant standards to maintain. In just two terms of leadership of the UN body tasked with promoting “responsible, sustainable and universally accessible tourism”, its outgoing Secretary General, Mr Rifai, a Jordanian national, is leaving very large shoes to fill.

As stated by its website, through a membership of  “157 countries, 6 Associate Members and 500 Affiliate Members representing the private sector, educational institutions, tourism associations and local tourism authorities”, the UNWTO’s Secretary General has raised the bar on cooperative leadership across the global tourism community, both government and business. Rifai has brought a heightened level of profile, credibility and impact to the sector, shifting the image of tourism from a non-essential, indulgent leisure activity to an essential economic driver. And he has done this without raising the profile of himself.

This is why the highly competitive, and often extremely personal, nature of the competition for the top job has many raising eyebrows. Rifai’s tireless servant-leader style of leadership has become a hallmark of the organisation.

Amid all of the Which is why the approach of one candidate, South Korea’s AMBASSADOR DHO YOUNG-SHIM, is being looked to with interest both in terms of strength of qualification, and importantly, in appreciation of approach.

A tourism practitioner who has dedicated her life’s work to the sector, she understands from her own experience and exposure how nations around the world can use Tourism to elevate not just their economies, but their social fabric, their environmental protection, their national identity, and their ability to compete globally with other countries in getting tourists to visit as a prelude to strengthening their economies. Theory is one thing – reality is another. Her over 40 years in tourism, including 20 in the UN, gives her the strongest global perspective on the ability of tourism to effect meaningful change for the better of countries economically, specially, environmentally. Not to mention how to make the UN work harder to deliver results. She represents strength through her insider and outsider knowledge, credibility and critique. That’s the bottom line when it comes to recognizing and delivering on the opportunity of tourism, for one and all.

Ambassador Dho does not just talk ‘leadership first, not leaders’, she is walking her talk.

Unlike any other candidate in the race, Ambassador Dho is openly positioning her running mate – CARLOS VOGELER, a Spanish national born in Venezuela, educated in Spain and Canada, with a broad experience both in the private and public tourism sector, and currently in the role of Executive Director for Member Relations at the UNWTO, as well as Regional Director for the Americas.

The global/local; Asia/Europe/Americas; female/male; government/business combinations, together with the combined experience and expertise is an interesting and powerful one, and specially one quite focused on delivering results.

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