UNWTO wants WTTC to fail: Mexico and Dominican Republic played by Zurab Pololikashvili

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UNWTO and WTTC using the Government of the Dominican Republic

The WTTC Global Summit is scheduled to bring major travel industry leaders together in Cancun on April 25-27. This event now has competition in the Dominican Republic thanks to an hostile approach by a hostile World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) secretary general. Is this the end of a badly needed cooperation between the private and public sector in the travel and tourism industry?

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  1. Travel and Tourism are on the verge. Millions of jobs are at stake and UNWTO Secretary-General declares war against WTTC.
  2. Urgently needed cooperation to bring tourism back turns into a conflict created by one person, the UNWTO Secretary-General causing Mexico and the Dominican Republic to be caught in a crossfire.
  3. Where will tourism go with the UN Agency in charge of wanting to destroy a badly needed conversation with top leaders of the private and public sector?

“Zurab is not stupid as the world was thinking … he is mean … a bad person.”
These are the words by Juergen Steinmetz, founder of the World Tourism Network and publisher of eTurboNews. Boycotting the work WTTC is doing, is like a slap in the face to the largest travel and tourism businesses, the members of the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC).

Gloria Guevara, CEO of WTTC mentioned: “Our members are furious. The UNWTO Secretary-General, Zurab Pololikashvili, is now trying to boycott our event. I am both sad and upset. This is the time the sector needs leaders to work together not to boycott.”

Global Guevara has been fighting like no one else to keep the global travel and tourism industry together and functioning. She was there for her members from the minute the pandemic broke out.

“Gloria and I have not always had the same opinion in regards to how we can combat this crisis, but we respect each other,” Juergen said. “Every decent person can understand that moving forward can only be achieved for everyone to work together. The UNWTO Secretary-General asking key leaders to attend a UNWTO event put together at the last minute on exactly the same day as the WTTC summit is insulting not only to WTTC but to those trying to save this industry and to the United Nations system as a whole. The Dominican Republic co-hosting such an event where many member companies of WTTC do business is very short sited. Tourism is a major part of the Dominican Republic’s GDP, and it should be in the interest of the DR Government to respect anyone working for the common goal to relaunch this important industry.”

Gloria Guevara from Mexico is the CEO of the London-based World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC), an organization with 200+ members that are made up of the largest companies in the global world of travel and tourism Many say WTTC represents the private sector in tourism. The World Tourism Organization, UNWTO is a United Nations Affiliated Agency and is supposed to represent the public sector. Zurab Pololikashvili, 44, from the Republic of Georgia is the current UNWTO Secretary-General.

Up until the end of 2017, UNWTO and WTTC operated like siamese twins in the global world of travel and tourism. This was under the leadership of Dr. Taleb Rifai from Jordan, as the former UNWTO Secretary-General before Pololikashvili took over the helm of this agency.

UNWTO and WTTC using the Government of the Dominican Republic
Dr. Taleb Rifai and David Scowsill

The World Travel & Tourism Council is seen as the global authority on the economic and social contributions of Travel & Tourism. Before the change in the UNWTO leadership, the former CEO of WTTC, David Scowsill, and Dr. Taleb Rifai had been working hand in hand to develop this important global industry.

All of this changed on January 1, 2018, when Zurab took over. UNWTO became a closed organization run by one man using threats, and favoritism to secure his personal position.

Favoritism in return for votes was the priority even when the world started going through the most devastating crisis ever – COVID-19. There has not been one press conference where non-conforming media has been allowed to attend or ask questions since January of 2018. UNWTO started to see WTTC as a competitor and not as a partner. The former Secretary-General Dr. Taleb Rifai was no longer welcome to attend important events, such as the UNWTO General Assembly. Gloria Guevara was not allowed to speak at such events and was seated in the last row.

The world stopped looking at UNWTO, but who else is there to turn to in the public sector:? Zurab has boycotted events like the World Travel Market, IATA, ICAO events, and many more. At the same time, people working at UNWTO have voiced their frustration in secret, but they are not willing to publicly make statements, as they are worried about their jobs if they say anything the Secretary General will not like.

In January, Zurab made it impossible for another candidate to get a fair shake in the Secretary-General election, assuring he would keep this prestigious title for another 4 years. In January he disrespected the Kingdom of Bahrain to get his personal way.

An insider at UNWTO told eTurboNews, “He is very divisive and always boycotting events and initiatives that are not his.”

Gloria Guevara has been trying to pull together the most important event for the private and public sectors since the pandemic broke out. The WTTC Summitnext month is designed to get world tourism leaders to meet at the upcoming Global Summit in Cancun. Against all odds and despite new record COVID-19 data in Mexico as well as a third Coronavirus wave in Europe, Brazil and Africa, WTTC is determined to make the Global Summit 2021 a breakthrough event to put the future of Travel & Tourism on the best possible track.

The highly-anticipated WTTC 20th Global Summit, was organized in partnership with the Government of Quintana Roo and will be held in Cancun, Mexico, from April 25-27, 2021. Nothing has been spared to make this event safe and effective for those attending physically or virtually.

A government official from Mexico told an eTurboNews source that the country is upset about UNWTO and the Dominican Republic for sabotaging this highly-anticipated event in Cancun.

Here is how this whole fiasco started.

Last month as a sign of confidence in Dominican tourism, UNWTO Secretary General Zurab Pololikashvili was vacationing in the Dominican Republic with his family.

To turn his holiday into an all-inclusive and most likely paid working mission, he took the opportunity to visit with the DR President Luis Abinader on his last day of rest. He told the tourism minister David Collado, that the Dominican Republic is a safe place to visit, saying that the Dominican Republic is an example in the world of how tourism can be managed with responsible protocols in the time of COVID-19 managing to attract international tourists with health security.

UNWTO and WTTC using the Government of the Dominican Republic
HE Minister of Tourism Dominican Republic David Collado, and UNWTO Sec Gen Zurab Pololikashvili

Most likely cashing in on an agreed favor to the Secretary-General, the Ministry of Tourism for the Dominican Republic sent a letter to the Ministers of Tourism and industry leaders in the Americas, including the United States yesterday.

The letter reads:

I am pleased to send attached an invitation from UNWTO Secretary-General, H.E. Mr. Zurab Pololikashvili, and the Minister of Tourism of Dominican Republic, H.E. Mr. David Collado, to attend the meeting of the Ministers of Tourism of the Americas, to be held from 26 to 28 April 2021 in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic.

Kind regards,

Esther Ruiz
Regional Department for the Americas
[email protected]

Today a Government official in the Dominican Republic defended the invitation saying that they had a different date for their meeting agreed on during Zurab’s working family holiday. It was Zurab Pololikashvili who last week requested to change the dates of the meeting to the same dates the WTTC summit will take place.

It now gives a choice to see who is with UNWTO and who is with WTTC. It is a bitter choice knowing tourism is one of the worst effected sectors in this world crisis. Tourism leaders may no longer be all in this together.

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