Ratify or Reject? UNWTO Secretary-General Elect Voting Is Not A Done Deal

It should be considered breaking news, eTN has learned from highly placed sources, the drivers behind the current Secretary-General Elect, Zurab Pololiokashvilis, have been up to the same election trickery they engaged in last May to secure his nomination in Madrid.

From our archives in 2013, we published an article about Dr. Taleb Rifai being reelected as UNWTO Secretary-General. One can always learn from the past. Those were much simpler days.

Dr. Rifai said at the time, his job isn’t easy. “The role of being both a reformer and a consensus builder can be polar opposites.

We cannot live in a world that is static, everything changes. Reform is not just a character or passion. We have no option but to keep reforming and keep changing.” commented Rifai.

In the same article from 2013, it was noted, Taleb Rifai not only welcomed  scrutiny, he encouraged it.


Never has our UNWTO been under greater scrutiny. As mentioned, one can always learn from history.

It appears bi-lateral deals to have Georgian nominee Zurab confirmed are continuing to flourish between Georgia and other voting UNWTO member countries. None of the deals have a clear connection to tourism. Apparently, these backroom deals are being engineered by the Georgian Foreign ministry under the directive of Georgian Prime MinisterGiorgi Kvirikashvili  to ensure Georgia’s candidate is given a YES vote at the upcoming General Assembly in Chengdu, China.

When deals are brokered behind the scenes, with zero regards for our global tourism industry, we all we need to pause. It affects us all, right down to the very grassroots level of our global industry and to the very core and foundation of our UNWTO.

Pressing the reset button and having a do over might be prudent.  While unprecedented, as our outgoing Secretary-General noted in 2013: “We have no option but to keep reforming and keep changing.”

With that in mind, NO ratification of this particular Georgia candidate elect is in order. A resounding NO vote to this particular Georgia candidate elect is in order.  It will take only a little more then 1/3 of all voting nations to say NO to not confirm the Secretary General Elect and we can truly start over ensuring politics, favors and secret handshakes do not determine the leadership of UNWTO.

Last week, an Georgian investigative journalist quoted a top level local official within a due diligence report on the proposed UNWTO Secretary-General Elect:”“Most of Pololikashvili’s fortune was accumulated by his father, who was an influential businessman and a go-to guy for amicable dealings in post-Soviet Georgia, especially during Shevardnadze’s tenure. Zurab himself just was a good son who listened to his dad. That’s where he got his savvy acumen and knack for negotiation. He’s a perfect second man.”


Our UNWTO’s top post should not be a job for the kid of a crony or “negotiated for”. Diplomatic postings within one’s own government is expected, that we understand. Trying to hijack world’s top tourism post on a quid pro quo basis, is entirely another matter.