Question to you? UNWTO Election – is there a problem?

Will the controversy about the recent nomination of Zurab Polokashvili for Secretary General put UNWTO into Chaos? This is one of the questions we are asking YOU, our readers today.

  • CLICK HERE  if you believe there is no problem with the reconfirmation of  Zurab Polokashvili at the UNWTO General Assembly.
  • CLICK HERE  if you believe there will be a problem with the reconfirmation of Zurab Polokashvili at the UNWTO General Assembly.


UNWTO nominee Zurab Pololikashvili is not attending the ongoing Regional Commission for the Americas of the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) this week. As a matter of fact, and unlike other candidates, Mr.Pololikashvili  hardly attended any UNWTO event before and after his election, but he did attend and invite selected delegates to a May 10 football game Atletico Madrid against Real Madrid at the Vicentent Calderon Stadium.

The game was on May 10, 2017 during the Executive Council meeting for UNWTO  in Madrid (May 10-12) at the nearby Melia Castilla Hotel. The highlight of the Executive Council meeting was the election of a new candidate to replace Taleb Rifai as the Secretary General in 2018. Executive Council members were the one representing not only their own country but were entrusted to represent a group of five countries to vote for a candidate. Executive council members could be compared to what is known as “Super Candidates” at US elections. This is a responsibility not only for national interests.

Mr.Pololikashvili was one out of the 5 remaining candidates for this post during the voting process.

Of course becoming friends with voting delegates had to be the top priority for any candidate and Mr. Polokasvili who is now the nominee knew this. He also knew attending a football game with someone is a great tool to make friends and to bond. Therefore Zurab handpicked voting executive members that were critical for him to make them feel obligated and impress them with giving them football tickets that are almost impossible to get – all during the ongoing Executive Council conference.

One of the people he invited and who was truly impressed, was Kenya’s Minister of Tourism Hon. Najib Balala. He proudly showcased his attendance and his photos to his Facebook friends.

Watch the slideshow below and see how the Kenyan minister enjoys the game together with other African candidates treated to the game by Georgia and representing executive council countries. See how Hon Najib Balala is showing off his ticket he received from the Georgian candidate. Georgia needed this push from Africa because members of the African Union presented their “African candidate” almost a year ago. This candidate was not Zurab, but the Hon. Walter Mzembi from Zimbabwe.

  • Ticket issued to the delegate from Kenya

There was the controversy in regards to the African Union Member Country Seychelles withdrawing their own candidate Alain St.Ange last minute and their pledge to vote for Walter Mzembi. There was the “emotional speech” Alain St. Ange was allowed to give at the beginning of the voting process, even though he was no longer a candidate. This speech most certainly influenced some candidates.

There was the rejection of the Cameroon candidate 8 years ago who wanted to speak at the executive council meeting when his country withdrew him last minute and he was not allowed to. There was no time to debate for voters after candidates made their presentation. It seems procedures and rules were interpreted at will – and this caused anger and confusion.

This is only one out of many incidents in a series of bizarre events leading to the election of the Georgian Candidate nominee as the choice of the current executive council. There is a lot more to come and eTN will be reporting about it in due time.

Taleb Rifai is not a person known to enjoy conflicts. He has built his leadership on friendship and trust. It’s almost certain he is not very happy with the current situation but has been showing his unconditional support for the Georgian nominee so far.

Mr. Zurab may be receiving private tourism lessons or consulting by David Scowsill, outgoing president and CEO of WTTC. This information was given to eTN by multiple sources. eTN reached out to WTTC and Mr. Scowsill but was unable to receive a confirmation or denial.

Mr. Rifai may feel UNWTO would jump into chaos if Zurab was not confirmed by the upcoming General Assembly.  Rifai may feel UNWTO would jump into chaos if he was unable to lead through this process.

Mr. Rifai dropped a bombshell on May 10, 2016 when he had appointed Marcio Favilla at the Executive Council Meeting in Malaga, Spain.
This “deputy” may no longer be qualified to lead the organization through a possible crisis after Mr. Rifai is scheduled to resign the end of this year. Mr. Favilla had also put his name up as a candidate to become Secretary General and now has a clear conflict of interest.

According to eTN insiders attending the ongoing  UNWTO Regional Commission for the Americas conference, many countries had discusd the upcoming re-confirmation hearing in China and voiced their concern openly and privately.

The question remains. What will be bigger chaos?

A) Sorting out a process to confirm a new secretary-general absent of any defined procedures as mentioned in our article discussing the “unlikely scenario.”

OR  B) having a Secretary General in charge of UNWTO for the next four years who is full of controversy and hasn’t demonstrated his qualification, communication skills, and interest. Most executive council members may have not had any idea about the circumstances involved when they casted their vote.

Let us not forget: We’re playing with hundred thousands of jobs and our largest industry in the world – tourism. There is still time to establish a procedure for the organization to move forward  of there was the “unlikely” scenario.

We would like to hear from you. You don’t have to give us your name, affiliation or contact information.

    if you believe there is no problem with the reconfirmation of  Zurab Polokashvili at the UNWTO General Assembly.

    if you believe there will be a problem with the reconfirmation of Zurab Polokashvili at the UNWTO General Assembly.