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First Woman Candidate for UNWTO Secretary-General is from Bahrain

First International Cultural Festival Presented in Bahrain
First International Cultural Festival with Her Excellency Sheikha Mai bint Mohammed Al Khalifa

MANAMA, BAHRAIN – The global travel and tourism industry has been affected more than any other industry in the world due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) is the United Nations agency accountable for the promotion of responsible, sustainable, and universally-accessible tourism. With the current global situation, it is necessary for UNWTO leaders to think beyond political agendas.

Bahrain is pleased to nominate HE Mai Al Khalifa to compete for the post of Secretary General for UNWTO. She believes that she is the person who will be able to guide tourism out of this global crisis. If elected, she will be the first woman to lead this global UN-affiliated agency.

HE Mai Al Khalifa thinks UNWTO should facilitate Member States’ capacity to incorporate tourism within crisis management and national risk mitigation plans.

She says: “It is clear, however, that UNWTO’s ability to respond adequately to crisis is currently hampered by inadequate independent funding. Guided by other successful initiatives within the UN system (for example the World Heritage International Assistance Scheme), I recommend the development of a UNWTO Assistance Fund to support both Full and Affiliate Members of UNWTO to cater for emergency interventions. I have had in my current role considerable success in securing long-term low-interest loans and grants from banks and funding agencies relating to such circumstances.”

Tourism is central to “poverty eradication”, “gender equality” and “decent work and economic growth”. The power of tourism is that it is a highly visible sector that can highlight in microcosm what can be achieved in wider contexts.

Her Excellency thinks the impact of tourism on climate change must not be underestimated.

Smart destination and digital transformation should remain a UNWTO priority.

A priority would be to encourage non-member states to join; reinvigorate UNWTO as an inclusive organization with active engagement from all members; provide a wide range of demonstrable benefits to these members; and widen, diversify and re-conceptualize the affiliate membership mandate.

From the perspective of her current role as Chair of the UNESCO Arab Regional Centre for World Heritage (ARC-WH), she can see clearly that there are many potential synergies to build upon between the mandate of UNWTO and those of other UN agencies.

Her Excellency understands that only 35 countries belong to the group of Executive Council States for UNWTO, and these are the countries that will vote for the best candidate. HE believes Executive Council member states have a special responsibility within the United Nations World Tourism Organization framework, and they understand the voting system is not meant for inclusive benefits of such members but to reflect the wishes of all UNWTO member states.

Therefore, HE Mai Kalifa pledges to be a Secretary General for all 159 member countries. Specifically small island nations and tourism dependent countries need  global support. Her Excellency believes, “We are all in this together,” and this very much includes the private industry driving the rebuilding process.

HE Mai Khalifa has reached out to tourism leaders around the world to listen to their feedback on the current situation of travel and tourism. She has reached out to Gloria Guevara, CEO of the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) ; Cuthbert Ncube, Chairman of the African Tourism Board (ATB); HE Tourism Minister Edmund Bartlett from Jamaica who head of the Global Tourism Resilience and Crisis Center; and many more.

Her Excellency summarized: “If appointed, I will undertake to be a dynamic leader of UNWTO. I will aspire to make UNWTO “walk the talk” so that it becomes itself a living example of sustainability, diversity, integrity and responsibility”

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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.