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22 YES, 250 NO: Zurab Pololikashvili for UNWTO Secretary-General

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World Tourism Organization

It’s only about two weeks until the UNWTO General Assembly comes together in Madrid to decide if the recommendation by the Executive Council from January to confirm the current Secretary-General for another term would be confirmed.
Many in the global travel industry hope for tourism ministers to open the way for a new election due to the massive number of questions and issues that gave the current SG his position.

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  • In case 1/3 of the voting countries at the upcoming General Assembly would not re-confirm Zurab Pololikashvili for a second term as Secetary General for UNWTO, there is a simple process already established to appoint a replacement.
  • In case that there is no reelection of the Secretary General, then the General Assembly shall take an agreement in the agenda point 9 of the Election of the Secretary General, where it instructs the Executive Council to open a new process for the designation of the UNWTO Secretary General.
  • A survey by eTurboNews indicates an overwhelming rejection for the reconfirmation of Zurab Pololikashvili.

eTurboNews asked ministers, delegates, and high-ranking members of the global travel and tourism industry to give their thoughts about re-electing the current UNWTO Secretary-General to a second term.

The second term was recommended by the UNWTO Executive Council meeting on January 20, raising many eyebrows about how the process took place.

eTurboNews as of today received 272 responses with only 22 wanting to reconfirm him as the head of UNWTO for a second term.

These responses came from Albania, Austria, Argentina, Aruba, Australia, Bangladesh, Bahamas, Barbados, Bulgaria, Belgium, Benin, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, China, Ecuador, Eswatini, France, Germany, Georgia, Ghana, Hong Kong, Hungary, India, Indonesia, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Ireland, Jamaica, Jordan, Kenya, Latvia, Malaysia, Mauritius, Mexico, Montenegro, Mozambique, Namibia, Nigeria, Norway, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Saint Lucia, Senegal, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Saudi Arabia, Seychelles, Spain, Somalia, Sweden, Syria, Tanzania, Thailand, Uganda, UAE, UK, Ukraine, Uganda, USA, Venezuela, Zambia.

eTurboNews readers in key leadership positions made the following comments to confirm (YES), to not confirm (NO). Some responses came from voting delegates (ministers), others from leading members of the global travel and tourism industry.

Of course the real reconfirmation hearing in Madrid in about 2 weeks will only be decided by ministers or by ambassadors attending on behalf of ministers.

It takes one country to ask for a secret vote and avoid appointment by acclamation.
Experts think this is essential for a fair reconfirmation vote.

Arguments received for a YES vote:

  • Need continuity in putting back Tourism into its Normalcy. In this trying time and unprecedented event we should have someone who is familiar with the Tourism affairs and established networks with the rest of the world.
  • With past experience Zurab Pololikashvili can tackle the current challenging situation. We should support from bottom of our heart in all aspects and perform as a team. Almighty God bless us all. Ameen.
  • He should of course be reconfirmed, if the people wants him back he should do a second tenure What we need is wisdom in things like this so that we do not get distracted , there are other pressing issues that beset the travel industry at the moment. We need to be resolute and focused .
  • Excellent performance

Arguments received for a NO Vote:

  • Has been not an innovator and all-inclusive
  • Everyone who is able and willing to see, listen and feel behind of the scene knows Zurab P. is the worst Gen Sec UNWTO ever had. Unfortunately this mirrors to Georgia, who probable do not have that much influence. It seems non-qualified Z.P. is a strow man of another power country which better should not be mentioned in public.
  • He didn´t make any important effort to get UNWTO better.
  • The UNWTO needs to be taken seriously. This Secretary General does not inspire confidence – James Hepple, Tourism Analytics
  • Lack of integrity; lack of transparency; corrupt practices, vote-rigging what else do you need to know?
  • He needs to step out and allow someone more competent to run UNWTO
  • If there is doubt xam the process Hold new election. If he truly won he would not mind standing again.
  • As a former UNWTO official I don’t accept the present way to manage the institution that I loyally served for 36 years!
  • Definetly NOT- neoliberalism does not help
  • Tume for change. The industry needs strong leadership and less politics. Plus need much more cooperation among countries and organizations related to tourism.
  • If he is confirmed it will result in some or all of the following The loss of members and funding from fee paying members, The loss of credebility ,The eventual demise of UNWTO or a least losing its UN affiliation.
  • Too much doubtsaccompanied his campaign. His selection of the countries he visited, on UNWTO mission and the result of these visits cast doubt on the transparency of the support he has got from the Executive Council. The move of the venue to Madrid and subsequent neglect of Kenya’s is an additional reason to look for a less conflictive solution.
  • He is NOT honest person ..it was a shame the last campaign with the Minister Walter Mzembi..
  • If there is doubt about the transparency of the way the Executive committee arrived at their decision then the General Assembly should not be used as a rubber stamp.
  • Only recently he moved the General Assembly from Africa to Madrid, Spain without any consideration to Kenya who appealed against the decision.
  • MNeed continuity in putting back Tourism into its normalcy. In this trying time and unprecedented event we should have someone who is familiar with the Tourism affairs and established networks with the rest of the world.
  • He is corrupt and has destroyed the organization UNWTO needs a leader not a corrupt dictator.
  • We need a fair election
  • General Zurab Pololikashvili was re-elected by the Executive Council in January under questionable circumstances. I hope that an honest and serious light comes to their spirits and also to the governments from the countries they represent.
  • Lost of transparency, bad treatment of the private sector, too many games to maintain his job, lack of professionalism and presence, promotion of the wrong people inside UNWTO as they are chosen by other interests than the professional skills and capacity.
  • We need a change. Africa must be given chance to lead UNWTO for the first time.
  • He is an upstart. Doesn’t know the ABC of tourism. He is promoting his own people in utter disregard of rules and regulations.
  • He is simply not qualified for the job.
  • Engagement in national politics of Spain attending the Popular Party congress (opposition party). According to UN Ethics Office: – You must avoid political activities that could reflect adversely on the UN, or diminish your independence and impartiality. – Avoid promoting national political positions or displaying endorsements of political candidates while at work. – Do not represent yourself as a UN staff member when you sign petitions or engage in any political activity. Zurab showed off on Twitter their involvement in Spanish politics: https://twitter.com/pololikashvili/status/1443230304240644096?s=20 https://twitter.com/pablocasado_/status/1443302875556466690?s=20
  • Appointment of Director of Affiliate Members, Mr Ion Vilcu: Former Ambassador of Romania to Spain, while Zurab was the Ambassador of Georgia – No trace of tourism-related experience in Ion Vilcu’s experience.
  • Affiliate Members have lost all voice in UNWTO. – Many Affiliate Members have conveyed its frustration to UNWTO due to the fact that almost no work is being done, and that the Director only works with a selected group of Affiliate Members, mostly coming for Madrid.
  • Just the suspicion of questionable circumstances in the re-election justifies a no
  • A poor representative of global tourism especially during the Covid-19 crisis.
  • Pololikashvili has brought public scandal, odium, and contempt upon the UNWTO. His corrupt behavior has been nothing short of appalling. He is totally unfit to lead this organization and will continue to sully its reputation and credibility if he remains in office. I say Good Riddance! The Organization needs a credible candidate with integrity who has been a recognized tourism industry professional – someone like Carlos Vogeler from Spain who Zurab also treated very badly.
  • He doesn’t represent the values of an UN agency
  • There is too much corruption.
  • Seemingly totally corrupt. Not doing UNWTO any favours in global perception, let alone sustainability and ethics agenda: The rest of UNWTO/UN must step in to stop the debacle and embarrassment.
  • It’s enough! Secretary General of UN Organization should be more open and tolerant person. And of course much more knowledgeable in all senses. There are no place for intrigues and undercover games in such level Organization. Taleb Rifai brought him on this position and we remember it very well! In gratitude for this, due to jealousy of the reputation and importance of this person for the entire world community, he was isolated from the UNWTO and all communication was stopped. This is a slap in the face not only of Taleb, but also of everyone who voted for Pololikashvili by recommendation of Rifai. The whole world.
  • Zurab Pololikashvili is unethical and lacking the competence to be UNWTO Secretary General – he should be impeached.



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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.

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