UNWTO Secretary-General criticized WorldTourismWire at packed Madrid Ambassador meeting

At yesterdays UNWTO Ambassador meeting in Madrid, ahead of the General Assembly next month in China, the outgoing Secretary General, Dr. Taleb Rifai, chose to make curiously timed, critical remarks about investigative media articles by eTN and WorldTourismWire related to the UNWTO Secretary General election, threatening with legal action.

Rifai introduced Ambassador  Zurab Pololikashvili the widely criticized Ambassador from Georgia, who is the nominee for the Secretary General post to the attending ambassadors and embassy officials attending from 90 countries  There was a chance for Mr. Pololikashvili to say something – but he kept silence staring on this I-phone most of the time.
While remarkably, Taleb failed to address documented election misconduct within his own organization. Which in reality is OUR organization. UNWTO belongs to the global tourism industry and its continued slide into opaqueness, rather than transparency, is disturbing.
Walter Mzembi from Zimbabwe mounted a robust campaign to have agenda items related to election irregularities added to the General Assembly meeting in China next month. This has received a great deal of pushback from Secretary General Rifai.

Mzembi provided UNWTO with irrefutable documentation of irregularities during the election, and one would have hoped the outgoing Secretary General would be proactive, to shine a light on it, to make it right.

The top post of our UNWTO should be our top watch dog, guarding fiercely the reputation, standards, and ethics of the world’s leading tourism organization. This does not appear to be the case with Dr. Rifai.

Attending Zimbabwe’s Ambassador Rudo Chitiga said her countries intervention is not for the good of her minister, but for the good of tourism and UNWTO.

  • Click here to download the PDF letter by the Zimbabwe Ministry of Tourism outlying the flawed election process.
  • Click here to download the PDF letter by the ZImbabwe Ministry of Tourism outlying the change proposed for the UNWTO Rules of procedure

eTN, the industry leader of global travel/tourism news, has a subsidiary media platform geared towards news relevant to UNWTO, WTTC and other major international tourism association – WorldTourismWire.

Publisher Juergen Steinmetz said: ” We report with balance and fairness, regardless of the subject within either platform. The news is news, and we have been diligently following and reporting on the UNWTO Secretary General Election, without favor, prejudice or any regard for who we might offend.”

Today, we received reports from the packed Madrid meeting, that not one single mention was made of election irregularities. We are disappointed Dr. Rifai spent time in this important meeting maligning media. As media, we have a very real obligation to report known misconduct or irregularities related to the UNWTO Secretary General election.

We are of the belief authentic efforts should be spent on reviewing and discussing miscreant conduct related to the UNWTO Secretary General election, rather than speaking poorly of media who report on the election.

So far eTN and WorldTourismWire only heard from H.E. Walter Mzembi. Some readers may think this publication is a spokesperson for Mzembi and Zimbabwe.

“Nothing could be further from the truth”,  Steinmetz continued to say.” Our floor was always open for comments. Especially we would welcome input from SG nominee Zurab Pololikashvil, and former SG candidates  Mr. Márcio Favilla, Mr. Jaime Alberto Cabal Sanclement, Mrs. Young-shim Dho.”

We will continue to report on this important story, despite pressure from the highest level our UNWTO not to.
by Mel Webster