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Shameless and successful! The UNWTO Executive Council Meeting in Jeddah

UNWTO Executive Council

Tourism was saved today by the ministers of Saudi Arabia and Spain with a little extra help from Kenya

The Executive Council of the World Tourism Organization is currently debating in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.

It took a few good women and men to save the outcome of the Executive Council meeting in Jeddah today and perhaps for the future of global tourism.

Understanding the coup in the making by UNWTO Secretary-General and his legal counsel Alica Gomez, H.E. Ahmed Al Khateeb, Minister of Tourism for the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, and H.E. Reyes Maroto, Minister of Tourism for the Kingdom of Spain reminded executive council members that the Secretary-General has the mandate to report to the ministers and not the ministers to him. This was strongly endorsed by other veteran ministers, including the Hon. Najib Balala from Kenya.

What happened mostly behind the public eyes in Jeddah today?

Opening the council session on Tuesday, the UNWTO Secretary-General, Zurab Pololikashvili said in rebuilding the sector from the ravages of the pandemic, the industry must work to have an inclusive and sustainable tourism sector.

“Saudi efforts to promote sustainable tourism are remarkable”, said Anita Mendiratta, special adviser to the UN World Tourism Organization’s secretary-general. Anita was also a special advisor to the former Secretary-General Dr. Taleb Rifai and a contributor to eTurboNews, as well as a founding member of the former eTurboNews/CNN/ UNWTO/ IATA Tourism Task Group.

The UNWTO Secretary-General indicated he came to Jeddah full of hope. “That’s how I feel after today’s UNWTOEC, next to leaders firmly committed to following UNWTO’s vision for tourism recovery.”

 Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Tourism has today launched a new program to equip 100,000 young Saudis with the key hospitality skills needed to pursue careers in the Kingdom’s flourishing tourism industry.

At the same time the launch by His Excellency Ahmed Al Khateeb, Minister of Tourism, Saudi Arabia at the 116th session of the World Tourism Organization’s Executive Council in Jeddah, ‘Tourism Trailblazers’ will provide in-depth global experience to the tourism industry’s future leaders.

Saudi Arabia Invests in the Next Generation with its Tourism Trailblazers Program

According to eTurboNews sources, UNWTO Secretary-General however also came to Jeddah with a mission to overturn a decision taken by the General Assembly in December 2019.

He wanted to stop a task force put in place at the last general assembly in December 2021.

The decision for the task force was based on a request by Saudi Arabia and Spain and put in place by a vote of the entire General Assembly 2021 in Madrid.

This task force will without doup take a lot of the power away from the Secretary-General, who is trying to run UNWTO his way.

It often appears the secretary-general doesn’t understand that he actually reports to the ministers, and not the ministers to him.

Some say the Secretary-General was operating the organization like his own private business, some called him a dictator. The task force would bring balance back into this UN-affiliated agency.

It’s unclear how an initiative already voted for by the General Assembly, the supreme organ of UNWTO could have been stopped by the Executive Council.

According to a prominent eTN Source, the UNWTO legal advisor Alicia Gómez acted shameless yesterday with her legal opinion, so she could cater to her boss.

According to the same source, Gomez failed in her effort to find a legal way to stop the implementation of the task force.

Alicia Gomez may be the same reason why the current secretary-general was never properly elected in 2017.

Pololikashvili’s confirmation hearing was not conducted by a secret vote in 2017, even though two days before at the Executive Council meeting, Zimbabwe’s Dr. Walter Mzembi did not continue to push issues related to a flawed election system at the General Assembly. The allegations were subsequently eliminated, although a secret vote was the understanding when all parties came to an agreement for Mzembi to withdraw his concern.

The story started after that when Gomez misinformed her former boss, Dr. Taleb Rifai during the 2017 General Assembly in Chengdu China on how to avoid a secret vote anyway. She was wrong, but Rifai relied on her legal advice, so Zurab was elected by proclamation.

Gomez was promoted in 2018 once Zurab was in charge of the World Tourism Organization. She has been a loyal servant to her boss every since.

The UNWTO Secretary-General fought hard to stop the establishment of this Saudi/Spanish proposed task force on December 3, 2021, at the UNWO General Assembly in Madrid. He failed.

The UNWTO General Assembly made a turning-the-table key decision when establishing the independent task force to redesign Tourism for the Future. A discussion for this task force started already at the UNWTO Commission for Africa Meeting in September 2021 in Cabo Verde. Saudi Arabia took a prominent role in Cabo Verde.

The brains behind the initiative were H.E. Ahmed Al Khateeb, Minister of Tourism for the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, and H.E. Reyes Maroto, Minister of Tourism for the Kingdom of Spain.

On December 3, 2021, and against the plea by Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili, the future of World Tourism and the UNWTO was put in the hands of this new Task Force. It appears this will go forward after all.

The current UNWTO Executive Council member countries, chair, vice chairs:

  • Chair: Côte d’Ivoire
  • First Vice-Chair: Saudi Arabia
  • Second Vice-Chair: Mauritius
  1. Algeria (2023)
  2. Argentina (2025)
  3. Armenia (2025)
  4. Bahrain (2025)
  5. Brazil (2025)
  6. Cabo Verde (2025)
  7. China (2023)
  8. Côte d’Ivoire (2023)
  9. Croatia (2025)
  10. Dominican Republic (2025)
  11. France (2023)
  12. Georgia (2025)
  13. Greece (2025)
  14. Guatemala (2023)
  15. India (2025)
  16. Iran (Islamic Republic of) (2025)
  17. Italy (2023)
  18. Japan (2023)
  19. Kenya (2023)
  20. Mauritius (2023)
  21. Morocco (2025)
  22. Mozambique (2025)
  23. Paraguay (2023)
  24. Portugal (2023)
  25. Republic of Korea (2023)
  26. Russian Federation (2025)
  27. Saudi Arabia (2023)
  28. Senegal (2023)
  29. South Africa (2025)
  30. Spain (Permanent Member)
  31. Thailand (2023)
  32. Tunisia (2023)
  33. Turkey (2023)
  34. United Arab Emirates (2025)
  35. Zambia (2025)

eTurboNews Disclosure:

ETNCNN
Former CNN Task Group

For this story, eTurboNews is relying on feedback from trusted sources and attending delegates at the Executive Council meeting in Jeddah. UNWTO stopped eTurboNews from asking questions or responding to questions. eTurboNews has been banned to attend UNWTO press events ever since January 1, 2018, the beginning of the Pololikashvili term.

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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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