Survey result: UNWTO Secretary General Election should have been stopped

Last week Worldtourism Wire asked readers a question: “UNWTO Election – is there a problem?”

Today you, our readers spoke out in full force. Responses came from government officials, many asked to remain anonymous. They came from private consultants and other tourism stakeholders.  The question was to find out if the Georgian nominee Zurab Pololikashvili went too far in inviting key executive council members to a sold out football game during the Madrid Executive Council.

Only 4 out of 142 responses thought it was ok. These four claimed to be from Spain (2x) , France, and Palau.  None of them had any explanation, nor did they give their name or contact information.

More outspoken were more than 100 readers claiming the action by the UNWTO Secretary nominee should be considered bribery, Two readers from France and Spain thought the action was not ethical but acceptable.

Many of those responding were executive council members and did not want to be named.
Here are some comments received:

AUSTRALIA:  (anonymous) The UN and UNWTO are a waste of tax payers money and we see proof of this in the last few weeks first when the African Union tells countries who they must vote for even if the countries candidate comes from that continent.  (We deleted some personal attacks on a candidate following this sentence)

What is the UNWTO? Well, it’s just a big boys club for a bunch of useless ex or current public servants and consultants. What has the UNWTO really done in the last 20 years? Besides chewing through millions of dollars, mostly for meetings and conferences for a few public servants of 3rd world countries. Let the private sector, regional tourism bodies, and IATA get on with the job.

To prove this point how much has the UNWTO wasted on this election process. many countries don’t even belong anymore to UNWTO, including Canada and I believe the USA and many European countries.

I have written to my Prime Minister here in Australia a few months ago to ask if Australia was going to pull out and the reply I received back from the PM office said they were reviewing it. Now that this Georgian has been elected I think you will see a lot of countries not renew and pull out.

CANADA: Bea Broda, TV producer: How can a person be elected as the CEO when there has been evidence that votes were “bought?” This kind of corruption should not exist at this level.

FLANDERS: Two responders say this incident constitutes bribery.

FRANCE: Government official: If he (Zurab)  respect himself he should resign nd the next in line who was elected should be nominated. How we can have such a nominee at UNWTO helm, if he is a cheater. This is unacceptable at all.

GERMANY: One attending government official  commented: “The candidate is tainted.”

FINLAND: Birger Baeckman, former president of UFTAA, board member .travel.  Attending the football game for an UNWTO Executive Council member was wrong and constitutes bribery. Any politicization of the travel and tourism is to the detriment of the travel and tourism industry and thus also to the UNWTO.

GUATEMALA:  I trust that a good choice will be made–someone who is in the business of tourism; who has a good reputation as a person and as an entity–who has nothing to hide; nor has done wrong to anybody within and outside the world tourism family.
May we continue to be transparent!!!

ITALY: Michelina Gabriel Sanquest: I was disappointed that Hon.Minister from Zimbabwe Walter Mzembi did not win.I felt he was the Better Candidate in my opinion.

MACEDONIA:  (government official) The UNWTO needs to correct and adhere the Secretary General Election regulations in order to prevent from unethical acts and wrongdoings. Not necessarily, these are result of purposeful action, but more could be a result of a culture differences.
Also, the deadlines for submissiona and the candidates nominations regulations should also be subject to change.

MOROCCO: James, MA Grogor, government consultant: Thanks for keeping this disastrous and wholly unacceptable situation alive with your excellent journalism. UNWTO can ill afford such controversy. I was finally hoping for a candidate that could represent and work with the private sector to enable the UNWTO to assume the rightful position as an International leader for the entire sect… Obviously Alain St. Ange provided just that creativity and leadership that is needed. But that aside, electing somebody with no tourism industry experience is simply unacceptable in 2017. Will you sure a lack of participation the private sector. The challenges to the tourism industry are too great at this time.

NAMIBIA government official: The ballot paper were shredded so that no evidence is there for the rigging and the African candidate lost because of the system and it is my hope that the Georgina man should not be confirmed in September 201, let’s revisit this election in China if we are fair.
A second responder said:  The whole election was unethical corrupt and unprecedented.

SOUTH AFRICA:  Prof De Wet Marxon : Global tourism is in jeopardy now with this clueless Zurab. The UNWTO risks becoming irrelevant even loosing membership due to the SG elect’s leadership inabilities that are a matter of public record. It is unfortunate for global tourism. Certainly, the irregularities we are reading compels for a re-run of the election. Dr. Rifai has put a dent on his legacy and to say it clearly, he is not a leader to be trusted. We suspect that given the determination he has, Dr Rifai, to impose Zurab as he tricked the whole world, makes himself and Zurab never to be trusted at all.

SPAIN: Joanna Penalver (Internavo)  Attending the football game for an UNWTO executive council was wrong and constitutes bribery.

Another comment from Spain suggests the ticket for Carlos Vogeler and  Young-shim Dho was a winning combination bringing consistency, experience and the private industry to a future UNWTO structure. Allowing Mr. St. Ange to speak to voters and being allowed to ruin the reputation of another candidate and at a time he was no longer in the game was wrong. For the Secretary General Dr. Rifai allowing this to happen plus tolerating the implementation of the football game known to him and many executive council candidates was not only wrong, unfair, but illegal.The election process should have been stopped at that time.

SYRIA: Attending the football game for an UNWTO executive council was wrong and constitutes bribery.

THAILAND: One known responder who wanted to remain anonymous found this incident constitutes bribery.
Another one said:  Shocking behavior from a fellow that the industry hardly knows. Highly risky choice. Could end up a bit like the Trump Presidency …..

TURKMENISTAN: Shohrat Jumayev:  Mr. Zorab Polikashvili (I hope I got his name correctly) should not be UNTO next secretary general as he is not related to tourism, did not campaign for the office and is a non-performance and non-person on the international stage.
It will spell the end of UNWTO remaining resemblance of normality and relevance!

UK:  (government official) The nominee should be disqualified and the contest re-run so as to select a candidate untainted by controversy & with the necessary background & experience of the world of tourism and its myriad aspects.

USA: Pamela Ott, consultant: The nominee should be required to have attended most, a percentage, of meetings in order to be considered for that position. I believe this alone shows a lack of dedication that others, regardless of receiving “gifts” should acknowledge and insist upon for any leader.

Ron S. Mracky, the current Managing Director of the Africa Consult Group wrote: It is a disgrace that type of underhanded obligation bribe has been brought on to an ethical top world tourism office. Reminds one of the FIFA and its downfall and loss of credibility the organization held for many decades -in short, the action of the Georgia government official should be called “dirty politics” and the results of the last UNWTO vote dismissed as an affront to serious international behavior the international tourism industry stands for.

Another respondent from the USA said:  This kind of sub-rosa bribery is both tiresome and damaging to the organization.

ZAMBIA (anonymous ): The elections were not free and fair. The so called elected candidate is not an expert in Tourism issues. His Manifesto was rather clueless please we can not have such an incompetent leader at the helm of such an important organization. UNWTO needs a dedicated and professional leadership with no link to football matches as a means to rise to the top post of Secretary General.

The discussion can go on. Click here to post your comments.