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An NGO Perspective on the UNWTO Election for Secretary-General

An NGO Perspective on the UNWTO Election for Secretary-General
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Written by Louis D'Amore

Louis D’Amore is one of the longest serving senior leader in the global travel and tourism industry. He earned the respects by almost every minister of tourism, heads of States, Kings and Queens during his career leading the International Institute for Peace through Tourism (IIPT) as a founder.

There has been no time he ever spoke out on political issues, but he also had enough with UNWTO Secretary General Zurab Pololikashvili, after reading the open letters by former UNWTO Secretary – Generals Dr. Taleb Rifai and Francesco Frangialli followed by another open letter by the former Assistant Secretary-General for the UNWTO Professor Geoffrey Lipman.

Louis D’Amore has taken the unusual step in his standing as the world peace-maker in tourism and provided this opinion article to eTurboNews:

On December 8, Former UNWTO Chiefs Taleb Rifai and Francesco Frangialli came out of retirement to send an open letter to the UNWTO Secretariat, all members of the UN World Tourism Organization, and to UN Headquarters in New York stating: “We strongly recommend that the elections of the Secretary-General 2022-2025 be postponed from January 2021, to be held concurrently with the General Assembly in Morocco” and outlining the rationale for their recommendation.

The General Assembly is scheduled for September/October 2021.

Further, that: “in fairness to others that may still wish to submit their candidacy for Secretary General, the cut-off date for submitting candidate applications should, at a minimum, be moved to March 2021. This timing has been the case in all previous elections.”

On December 9, Geoffrey Lipman, a former UNWTO Assistant Secretary-General, and the first Chairman of the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) wrote to add his voice to that of Francesco Frangialli and Taleb Rifai, to call for “less haste and more decency in the election of the next Secretary-General.”

Also, on December 9, a feature article of eTurbo News states: “There is a lady fighting for the survival of the travel and tourism industry. Her name is Gloria Guevara. She is the CEO of the World Travel and Tourism Council in London (WTTC). She is considered the most powerful woman in tourism.” 

“Many think she has a friend, and this friend is Her Excellency Sheika Mai Bint Mohammed Al Khailfa from Bahrain – the first woman running for the post of UNWTO Secretary-General. Together with Gloria both women may become the global force to push forward the new tourism normal.”

I for one would be delighted to see two powerful woman steering the future of tourism in the next 10 or more years. I have long been a supporter of woman. In 1968, as a consultant with a major international consulting firm in Canada, now known as Deloitte Canada, I was responsible for the first woman management consultant in Canada.

An article I wrote for the Business Quarterly in Canada concluded: “three positive forces shaping the future are the peace movement, environmental movement and women’s movement.”

Honorary Chair of the IIPT First Global Conference, “Tourism – A Vital Force for Peace”, Vancouver 1988, was H.E. Vigdis Finnbogadottir, President of Iceland and the world’s first elected woman Head of State. She had hosted the historic Reykjavik Summit two years earlier. The Honorary Chair of our Second Global Conference, Building a Sustainable World through Tourism, Montreal 1994, was Queen Noor whose husband had negotiated the Jordan – Israeli Peace Treaty two months earlier.’

In 2016, Cassie DePecol set a Guinness World Record for the “Fastest time to visit all sovereign countries” and the “youngest person to visit all sovereign nations.” Cassie’s journey was as an IIPT Ambassador for Peace, and together with Skal International President at the time, Nigel Pilkington, we arranged for her to meet with tourism leaders and lecture in universities during her travels.

Under the leadership of Ajay Prakash, IIPT has held annual “Celebrating Her” events at ITB acknowledging women leaders with awards. Taleb Rifai has honored us with his presence each year.

Regarding the International Institute for Peace Through Tourism (IIPT) and UNWTO, the original inspiration that seeded the idea for the International Institute for Peace came from the World Tourism Organization Manila Declaration:

CONVINCED that world tourism can be a vital force for world peace and can provide the moral and intellectual basis for international understanding and interdependence.

IIPT has had a strong and productive relationship with UNWTO that started with the IIPT First Global Conference with then Secretary General Willibald Pahr (of then WTO) as a keynote speaker. That relationship continued and grew stronger with Francesco Frangialli and stronger still with Taleb Rifai. A UNWTO – IIPT MOU was entered into with Taleb.

Both Francesco and Taleb were keynote speakers at several IIPT Global Summits and Conferences – and each year at IIPT featured events at World Travel Market and more recently, Taleb has participated at annual ITB events.

As IIPT first introduced the concept of Sustainable Tourism at its First Global Conference – and launched the “Peace through Tourism Movement” at that same conference in 1988 with 800 delegates from 68 countries; and as IIPT had developed the world’s first Code of Ethics and Guidelines for Sustainable Tourism following the Rio Summit in 1992 – it was agreed with Taleb Rifai that UNWTO and IIPT would partner on an official conference of the UN International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development and Peace planned for Montreal, Canada, September 17 – 21. In May 2017, China, which was hosting the UNWTO General Assembly that year, announced that they were changing the dates and moving it forward so that the last day would now be September 16. Therefore, most our keynote speakers would not be able to be in Montreal on 17 September. Not wanting to re-schedule later that year in Montreal and risk a winter blizzard, Taleb and I decided to move the date to 2018.

Planning for the Conference continued – but after being advised in March 2018 that all had been discussed and agreed to with the new Secretary General and I should contact the UNWTO Chief of Staff – I received a call that the UNWTO would no longer be partnering with IIPT. And so abruptly bringing to an end three years of planning.  Her Excellency Sheika Mai Bint Mohammed Al Khailfa would have been a keynote speaker as an Ambassador for the UN Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development and Peace. I look forward to meeting her as the new Secretary General of UNWTO.

Louis D’Amore

IIPT Founder and President 

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About the author

Louis D'Amore

Louis D'Amore is the president and founder of the International Institute for Peace Through Tourism (IIPT)