- With Saudi Arabia raising the possibility of a well-funded global tourism recovery, the established policy of ignoring the private sector and the absence of timely COVID-19 coordination by UNWTO is no longer sustainable.
- The outburst of rejection towards WTTC by 1977-born UNWTO Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili at the Ritz Carlton Hotel Riyadh is in urgent need of repair.
- The top consultant and advisor for the last two UNWTO Secretary Generals, Anita Mendiratta, came to the rescue with a not so happy looking photo she took at a luxury London restaurant.
Tourism is in crisis, and all stakeholders and Government working together is the only way forward. UNWTO was the big exception.
This perception had to change with Saudi Arabia ready to emerge as a leader in this situation and putting the money behind it, billions of dollars allocated to single handed assist the global tourism economy.
Like out of a spy story, UNWTO Zurab Pololikashvilli, guided by his top advisor, Anita Mendiratta, went into action. Zurab was always good to lead based on perception. In using the good name of an unaware future WTTC CEO, Zurab’s propaganda machine was turned on, and he was caught.
Remember? This was in May 2017
UNWTO Secretary-General, Taleb Rifai, has expressed his sincere appreciation to the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) for the strong partnership between both organizations.
Over the last six years, UNWTO and WTTC have created a strong partnership, bringing the public and private sectors together to advance tourism and to address its most pressing priorities.
In a UNWTO and WTTC Open Letter on Travel and Tourism Initiative launched in 2011, support was garnered from over 80 Heads of State and Government around the world. With this initiative, UNWTO and WTTC aim to promote the importance of the tourism sector in socio-economic inclusive development at the highest level.
This partnership between UNWTO and WTTC remained strong until December 31, 2017. Realizing the importance of a public-private partnership of the sector, it was important for the outgoing Secretary-General, Taleb Rifai, to invite a newly-appointed WTTC CEO, Gloria Guevara, to attend the UNWTO General Assembly in Chengdu, China, in 2017.
The WTTC CEO in 2017, Gloria Guevara, was the Minister of Tourism for Mexico in 2011. Mexico became the first country in February 2011 with Mexican President Calderon signing off on the UNWTO/WTTC tourism initiative pitched to 80 heads of state around the globe.
The Mexican Minister of Tourism, Gloria Guevara, coming from the private industry, clearly understood the importance for both sectors (private & public) to work together.
It was not known in 2017 that the newly-elected UNWTO Secretary-General, Zurab Pololikashvili, had different plans, and they did not include WTTC.
How UNWTO changed overnight on January 1, 2018
On January 1, 2018 Zurab Pololikashvili took the helm of the UNWTO.
Three years later experts agree, he should have never been able to do this.
- UNWTO Manipulation to secure the re-election of Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili continues.
- Why the UNWTO Secretary-General Zurab Polokashvili was never properly elected?
The incoming UNWTO Secretary-General who prior to working for UNWTO was serving as the Ambassador to Madrid for his country, the Republic of Georgia, had no experience in the private sector and tourism.
With Zurab taking the helm of UNWTO, IATA, ICAO, and WTTC lost their standing.
Zurab unsuccessfully urged the Spanish travel show, FITUR, to un-invite WTTC in 2019.
Zurab wanted the WTTC Global Summit in May 2021 in Cancun to fail and pushed the Government of the Dominican Republic to schedule a regional UNWTO event to clash with the dates of the WTTC Summit.
Ironically WTTC CEO Gloria Guevara had invited Zurab to attend and speak at the summit, but, of course, this didn’t happen. WTTC members were furious, and the Minister of Tourism for the Dominican Republic apologized and postponed the UNWTO event.
This was on May 27, 2021, in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
At the ceremony for the opening of the UNWTO regional center in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, UNWTO Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili was joined by Her Royal Highness Princess Haifa Al-Saud, Deputy Minister of Tourism for Strategy and Investment, and the Kingdom’s Minister for Tourism, His Excellency Ahmed Al Khateeb to officially open the office.
They were also joined by Tourism Ministers from across the Middle East and from every other global region, as well as by leaders from the private sector.
The Hon. Minister Edmund Bartlett from Jamaica and the Hon. Minister Najib Balala were attending the event, when Zurab Pololikasvili was causing a scene witnessed in the hotel lobby of the 5-star Ritz Carlton Hotel in Riyadh.
Why was Zurab so rude to Maribel Rodriguez?
Zurab loudly demanded to un-invite WTTC from attending the opening of the UNWTO Regional Center in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia on May 26, 2021
Consequently the Vice President of WTTC, Maribel Rodriguez, was asked by the organizer not to attend the ceremony. At one point, Zurab threatened to leave the event with his 80 people delegation if Maribel Rodriguez from WTTC was to be allowed in.
Maribel Rodriguez was officially representing Gloria Guevara, the CEO of the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC). She flew in from her home in Madrid, Spain.
Representing the largest private industry members in the world, WTTC has an important role in symbolizing that the private and public sector of the travel industry are connected.
Absent of leadership by UNWTO, WTTC was able to bring many leaders from the public sector to attend the organizations weekly meeting on the COVID pandemic.
Maribel Rodriguez joined WTTC in 2014. She has built an extensive network within the Travel and Tourism industry public and private sector, accumulating over 20 years of sales, marketing, communication, and commercial experience in Europe and Latin America in the airline and hospitality industry.
She was an Executive Commercial Director and Board Member for Travelodge Hotels Spain from 2008 to 2014.
Prior to that, she spent 11 years in the aviation industry, gaining extensive experience in all aspects of commercial aviation, managing among others the introduction of low-cost airline operations into the Southern European market for Virgin Express, Go-Fly, EasyJet, and Ryanair. She also worked for British Airways for Spain, Portugal, and France. Maribel has an Executive MBA at ICADE Business School, a Degree in Industrial Psychology from the University of Salamanca, and holds a Senior Executive Program for Travel & Tourism at IESE & JSF. She speaks fluent English, Portuguese, and a good level of French and Dutch.
Maribel is the first Spanish citizen having this type of executive post in the World Travel and Tourism Council.
Maribel did not want to add to the confusion that was developing at the Ritz Carlton Hotel in Riyadh. She didn’t want to be part of a shouting game, and she did not want to embarrass the host – the Government of Saudi Arabia.
After she was told she was no longer welcomed, she enjoyed the excellent facilities of the Ritz Carlton Riyadh hotel instead. She still delivered her short presentation that was always planned for the following day.
Why Anita Mendiratta’s propaganda tweet yesterday is important?
Of course, money talks -also at UNWTO – and money for tourism comes from Saudi Arabia these days.
With former WTTC CEO Gloria Guevara now working for the the Government of Saudi Arabia, Zurab had to repair the situation he caused in Riyadh.
The top advisor and a special close friend to UNWTO Secretary Zurab Pololikashvili is South African consultant (now based in London) Anita Mendiratta. Anita had also been the top advisor for Dr. Taleb Rifai, the former UNWTO Secretary-General.
In the meantime Dr. Taleb Rifai had been heard speaking out against Zurab Pololikashvili publicly.
Anita was the person who had quietly organized a meeting between Zurab Pololikashvili and Julia Simpson several months ago before Julia started her assignment at WTTC.
This meeting took place in a luxury London restaurant in May shortly after WTTC announced the appointment of the International Airlines Group (IAG) Executive Committee Member, Julia Simpson, as its President and CEO, effective August 15.
Julia was not yet working for WTTC, but for IAG, when she met Zurab. She also had not been briefed about her new job as a CEO for the World Travel and Tourism Council.
Of course, Julia was unaware of the tension between UNWTO and WTTC and the photo was kept under lock by Anita Mendiratta for almost 4 months before both Zurab and Anita tweeted it – for a very different reason.
UNWTO fake attempt to repair a relationship with WTTC
Ignoring years of established communication and activities put in place under previous UNWTO administrations, and misleading the public in posting this tweet with an old photo, is again a classic example of how the Secretary General is cheating his way forward. This could be fresh out of a James Bond movie.
This author responded to the tweet posted by Anita Mendiratta saying:
With all due respect Anita, this is a cheap propaganda post.
After the scene Zurab caused in Saudi Arabia, it’s very clear he hates WTTC and feels threatened by them doing something substantial and including the public sector. Do I have to say more?