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January 19, 2018

UNWTO Revenge? Zurab Pololikashvil will not keep Executive Director Carlos Vogeler


At the UNWTO  Conference on Jobs and Inclusive Growth in Montego Bay Jamaica, November 29 was all about honoring Carlos Vogeler, executive director UNWTO during the final session. Vogeler was honored by the Jamaica Minister Bartlett for 9 years hard work for UNWTO. The Hon. Ed Bartlett, Minister of Tourism for Jamaica told 1400 attending delegates it’s about honoring Carlos Vogeler today; November 28 was about honoring Taleb Rifai.” What the audience didn’t know, Carlos’ contract will expire December 31, 2017, and was not renewed by the new incoming UNWTO Secretary-General Zurab as of January 1, 2018.

eTN Publisher Juergen Steinmetz added to his Facebook on November 29 ” Zurab should be ashamed of himself.” Kojo Bentum-Williams added to the Facebook post: “Really? Carlos just like Rifai comes with depth and knowledge in the world of Tourism.”

In an obvious act of revenge by a usually quiet UNWTO Secretary-Elect Zurab Pololikashvil, this decision was made as a first relevant move by the new boss, giving a taste of the future UNWTO under his upcoming leadership.

It didn’t make any difference for Zurab to know Vogeler just needed another 9 months for his UNWTO pension and to keep his lifetime health insurance.

Vogeler was ready to take a no influence position but this humiliation was still not enough for the upcoming Georgian Secretary-General to show a change of heart. In order for Carlos Vogeler and his spouse to be on a lifetime health insurance, he needed to work. In another embarrassment for Vogeler,  Zurab apparently indicated he would keep the other executive directors on board.

Pololikashvil did not attend the Jamaica conference.

Mr. Vogeler has always been devoted to his job. Most world leaders consider him the second man in UNWTO. Travel and tourism was a 24/7 job for Carlos, and it showed. At the Sustainable Tourism Conference in Jamaica, he again gave his best and was leading the UNWTO delegation with Taleb Rifai.

It speaks well for his character. Carlos did not mention his pain at the recent UNWTO Jamaica conference and acted as always: Professional and with integrity and respect. In reality, he must have felt betrayed and he should have been bitter and angry.

What obviously broke Mr. Vogeler’s neck was the recent roller coaster style election for Secretary-General when he was a co-runner with Ambassador Dho Young-Shim from South Korea against Ambassador Zurab Pololikashvil from Georgia. Zurab very well may have won the election with the unconditional support by the current secretary general Taleb Rifai who put his own reputation on the line when he strongly urged the UNWTO General Assembly not to proceed with a secret election for the Secretary-General confirmation and pushed to confirm Zurab by acclamation.

In April Mr. Vogeler said: “At this point in my professional career, I am not going to gamble with the future of the organization, or the sector. I understand the enormity of the responsibility of Executive Council voting for the next SG. Now is not a time for experimenting, taking risks or bringing revolutions. And this is not the time for ego.”

What else will happen after January 1, 2018, remains a well-kept secret and is creating an atmosphere of uncertainty.

Mr. Vogeler had a hard time hiding his pain when presented with an achievement award by the Jamaican minister in Montego Bay.

Before Mr. Carlos Vogeler joined UNWTO in 2005 he was a tenured professor at University “Rey Juan Carlos”, Madrid, at the Dpt. of Business Economics, a regular lecturer at Spanish and International Universities and author of various university textbooks, as well as numerous articles on international tourism structure.

Mr. Vogeler started his career in the private sector at Pullmantur, one of the largest Spanish Tour Operators. During his sixteen years of service from 1974 to 1990, he became Deputy Managing Director and introduced many innovations, namely expanding the number of destinations and products and opening new offices and new markets. He also played an active role in the board of directors of the Spanish Travel Agencies Association of Travel Agencies and in UFTAA (United Federation of Travel Agent’s Associations), where he chaired the committee on road transportation.

From 1991 to 2008 he served in various senior management positions at Group RCI, part of Wyndham Worldwide, one of the world’s largest hospitality groups, quoted in the New York Stock Exchange, where he was Managing Director for South-Western Europe, covering Spain, France, Portugal and Benelux and later Vice president of Global Account Strategy & Industry Relations.

He was elected Chairman of the Affiliate Members of the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) from 2005 to 2008, representing Group RCI. Since 1997 he had been serving as Vice President of the board of the Affiliate Members and Chairman of the Business Council and member of the UNWTO Strategic Group.

He is also a founding member of the Spanish Association of Experts in Tourism (AECIT) and was a member of the International Association of Experts in Tourism (AIEST).

Carried out his studies in Canada and in Spain, graduating in Tourism Business Administration by “Escuela Oficial de Turismo de Madrid” (now University Rey Juan Carlos) and post-graduate by the IESE Business School, of the University of Navarra – Spain.

Mr. Vogeler was born in Venezuela of Spanish mother and Venezuelan-German father and is a national of Spain and Venezuela.

Jamaica’s Minister of Tourism Ed Bartlett told eTN, Carlos Vogeler deserves better.

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