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Georgia wins: UNWTO elects Zurab Pololikashvili as secretary general. Good or bad news for world tourism?


UPDATE: Is this a good or a very bad day for the future of World Tourism? The large camp attending the Executive Council in Madrid from Georgia obviously had a great day in Madrid on Friday at the Melia Castilla Hotel. Champaign was flowing.

Zurab Pololikashvili, the candidate for the UNWTO Secretary General from Georgia was elected Friday afternoon as the next secretary-general. He received 18 votes in the second round in the Madrid election. In the first round, Georgia had 8 votes, Walter Mzembi from Zimbabwe 11 votes. Korea was third with 8 votes.

One can only congratulate the prime minister of Georgia for his support. The Georgian ambassador in Madrid almost appeared to be on the sideline during the campaign pushed by his head of state.

This election result may not have been the best candidate, but about international politics and deals in return for favors.

After his victory, Zurab Pololikashvili was seen celebrating with his team. He did not attend the press conference with Taleb Rifai after the election.There was no information released by Georgia, not even a forward-looking statement or thank you.

During Mr.Pololikashvili campaign, there was no media outreach, and the candidate was absent from most international events. For most of us in the press, Mr. Pololikashvili remains a no-one.

The secretary general-elect, however, related a message to all candidates after his inauguration through Taleb Rifai and offered to work with them in the future.

Plan B  for defeated candidates would be to contest the election at the upcoming General Assembly in China?
In such a case 2/3 of all member countries have to confirm the recommendation of the executive council.

Taleb Rifai said at the closing press conference on Friday he knew Zurab for many years. He called him a good man capable of doing the job. He cited his experience as the former minister of tourism for Georgia. He ended in saying democracy had spoken.

The secretary general also said. There were two criterions for the vote:
1) The character, vision, and knowledge of a candidate.
2) The country this candidate represents and its standing in the world.

Rifai also explained a public campaign was not necessary for such an election.

It appears this type of “democracy” may be controlled actually by the foreign ministries or heads of state and not the tourism ministers or tourism representatives in many voting countries.

Bilateral deals are cut by foreign ministers or heads of state and are often unrelated to travel and tourism.

A voting executive council member actually not only has a responsibility to its own nation, but to 4 other countries. There is 1 executive member for every 5 UNWTO member countries.

A quiet and closed up UNWTO secretary general with a political agenda for his country, and little ability to speak English may be in the pipeline. The future will tell.

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About the author

Juergen T Steinmetz

Juergen Thomas Steinmetz has continuously worked in the travel and tourism industry since he was a teenager in Germany (1977).
He founded eTurboNews in 1999 as the first online newsletter for the global travel tourism industry.