UN Tourism Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili Resignation

Zurab at UNWTO GA
Zurab at UNWTO GA

Should UN Tourism Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili resign now or at the end of his second term? The Advocacy Committee of the World Tourism Network is requesting feedback on this question.

The World Tourism Network advocacy group is asking travel industry leaders for help understanding the current situation in UN Tourism. Zurab Pololikashvili, the UN Tourism Secretary-General, is desperate to cover up his involvement in the ongoing scandal involving Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez and his wife, Begona Gomez.

Comments and feebdack by WTN members and eTurboNews readers can be submitted by going to https://wtn.travel/contact

UN Tourism had never responded to such irregularities, opening the floor for more substantiated or unsubstantiated finger-pointing and rumors from respected top leaders around the globe. This silence is not only true of UN Tourism. Most comments received by countries are often intense but only off the record.

This prevents countries like the UK, Canada, and the United States from seriously considering rejoining UN Tourism.

In times of a severe world crisis, tourism becomes a pillar of stability, resilience, and peace, and an accountable and capable leader of UN Tourism is not only necessary but essential for the sector.

The question is whether UN Tourism Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili should resign now or at the end of his term to open a new path for the future of this UN Agency. If he doesn’t resign and manages to focus on the only important part of his career, which is to win a third or perhaps more terms, UN Tourism will become useless.

Globalia, Air Europe, the Koldo corruption case, manipulation in two high-profile UNWTO elections – all of this should be enough for a decent leader to agree:

“I had a good ride, but it’s time to accept my legacy of having maneuvered tourism among friends, understanding it’s time to allow UN Tourism to progress under a new leadership.”

What Zurab Pololikashvili should say today

Instead, Zurab Pololikashvili has been building a global network of vulnerable countries and tourism ministers, many in Africa and Latin America, that would support his ambition to become the first World Tourism Strongman in return for having a friend in high places and cash in on more favors.

Zurab Pololikashvili is already the first UN Tourism Secretary General not to attend press conferences and not answer critical questions. This is exactly what strongmen do.

Obviously, success stories and photo opportunities will always surround any leader, but so far, did any activities by UN Tourism since 2018 helped countries and their SMEs in the travel and tourism industry? This is another question WTN would like to get feedback on.

The European Commission is investigating the potential misuse of EU funds in Spain’s Koldo corruption scandal, also known as Operation Delorme.

Gomez’s (the wife of the Spanish PM) critics say her ties to the government made it unethical for her to endorse a request for state funds and created a conflict of interest in dealings with Globalia, the holding company for the airline Air Europa.

These organizations have a direct link to advantages alleged to have benefited Zurab, and all of these companies at the center of the scandal are directly involved in UN-Tourism.

Gomez’s attendance at the UNWTO General Assembly in St. Petersburg, Russia in 2019 alone should have been enough to ask serious questions now.

This situation has led to high-level arrests in Spain and raised corruption allegations against the UN Tourism Secretary General involving family vacations using private jets.

The ongoing high profile Spanish corruption scandal also included the arrest of Mr. Aldama a former Honorary Consul of Georgia appointed to this position with the help of Zurab Pololikashvili, who himself served as the Georgia Ambassador to Spain, Andorra, and Morocco before he won a controversial election to become UNWTO Secretary-General on Jan 1, 2018

The irony is that now when Zurab is up to his neck and involved in controversy, he made a brilliant move to praise the opposition in Spain and change the brand of UN Tourism to distance himself from what was collapsing behind him.

The overall motivation appears to be the Secretary-General’s desperate attempt to change rules and regulations within the UN-affiliated agency so that he can run for a third term.

It involves UNWTO members being asked to be quiet when Zurab hosted a critical Executive Council meeting in Georgia, a country that was not a council member but Zurab’s home country.

According to reliable sources, during the COVID crisis, Zurab begged the Saudi government to become the new home of the UN organization. This was later turned around as a takeover scheme, with some in the world blaming Saudi Arabia for instigating this conversation while countries scrambled to survive. Saudi Arabia came to the rescue of many.

In the meantime, a regional center for UNWTO was established in Saudi Arabia, courtesy of the Kingdom. As of today, this multi-million Dollar project has not employed anyone in charge and has no known activities, but the money appeared to have been spent in Madrid.

After being appointed to chair the Executive Council, Saudi Arabia made a brilliant move in helping the Task Force on Redesigning Tourism for the Future. This could mean the UNWTO Executive Council would be able to maneuver UN Tourism into a new path. At this time, such a move is expected, possibly bypassing the current secretary general’s ability to control it.

A recent name change for UNWTO to become UN Tourism has a deeper meaning and was not welcomed by many in the industry.

The new 24 million Euro headquarters of UN Tourism in Madrid appears to be central to the ongoing corruption scandal in Spain, and many more questions are pressing.

World Tourism Network is ready to take feedback on this unfolding situation.
Go to https://wtn.travel/contact/ and submit.

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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