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June 24, 2017

UNWTO members: Georgia nominee unqualified to honorably lead UNWTO?


It’s no longer just about the man who started it or the country he represents, it’s slowly becoming a global movement in the travel and tourism industry.  Even though UNWTO told eTN there are no issues, many think UNWTO election irregularities and manipulation generated escalating concern for the global travel and tourism industry.
Even the minister from Zimbabwe who started this movement admitted it’s not about him at this point: “All Candidates, with the exception of the elected nominee, are highly qualified to honorably lead the UNWTO.”
The Hon. Dr. Walter Mzembi from Zimbabwe took his gloves off this week issued an open letter  and a detailed list of issues  (Position Paper) related to the what he called flawed recent United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO)Secretary-General election in Madrid.

Recommended and now the nominee for the highest post in Tourism is Ambassador Zurab Pololikashvil from Georgia. His nomination has been in the spotlight and is viewed in critical terms by many.

Standing up against the nomination is the Hon. Minister Dr. Walter Mzembi. Importantly, Mr. Mzembi presented not only his case demonstrating flaws in the recent election, but he showed remedial solutions for the UNWTO General Assembly confirmation vote.

The UNWTO General Assembly (GA) will take place September 11-16, 2017  in Chengdu, China.  The nominee from Georgia will need 2/3 of the attending member countries to confirm the recommendation by the Executive Council (EC). Many say it may be the first time in the history of UNWTO, the GA may not confirm a candidate recommended by the EC.

Taking the protest in his hand Mzembi is doing what he does best, demonstrating leadership in a climate of apprehension by speaking thoughtfully about the recent UNWTO election travesty.
eTN has received an enormous response from readers, many top travel and tourism industry leaders. Every single response was supportive of the initiative started by Dr. Mzembi, but many weren’t ready to go public yet.
Some did go public, however, among them Louis D’Amore, founder, and president of the International Institute for Peace Through Tourism. He  told eTN publisher Juergen Steinmetz: “You are providing a great service to the tourism industry and most of all, to the UN system itself.” 
Sharron Parris –Chamber, Tourism Consultant and Media specialist  from Jamaica wrote “without prejudice.”
As a Tourism business entity and award-winning media specialist in Jamaica, I would like to say the following:
 
1. The UNWTO’s image is tarnished and a tarnished brand cannot lead the world in honest and open Sustainable Tourism Practices.
 
In order to change this, the UNWTO must lift the shroud of misconduct and irregularities by incumbent Taleb Rafai and UNWTO Secretariat in the recent election process.
 
Secondly, new elections should be called and Mr. Walter Mzembi, MP should have his position paper read or circulated to Council Members, if election rules do not object. The election process should not be rushed and should follow normal procedures.
 
Thirdly, new observers, not previously involved should be allowed to participate; they should be unbiased.
 
Fourthly, no phones should be allowed and neither outside interferences.
 
In conclusion, a credible world tourism organization should model strong unbiased leadership, as well as having these virtues inclusionary practices, multicultural, honesty, non-judgmental principles and integrity.
 
Failing to address the irregularities and departure of the normal election rules as outlined by candidate Mr Mzembi, the UNWTO would forever lose my vote and respect.
 
I would boycott the UNWTO presence in Jamaica in November 2017 and publicly ask others to do the same if these called for changes are not honored.
eTN  received a substantial number of calls from delegates including tourism ministers from various parts of the world. eTN communicated with candidates for the UNWTO Secretary General post, that were competing with Walter Mzembi in Madrid at the Executive Council election.
The general theme of their responses was common: “Thank you for eTN’s diligence in reporting and following this important story. I cannot at this time be making a public statement, however, my support will be made with my vote at the UNWTO General Assembly. I am watching the situation and may speak out when the time is best.”
One very respected Minister of Tourism specifically outlined his wish to have this issue dealt with prior to the General Assembly in Chengdu to avoid further embarrassment to the UNWTO and our industry. He also stressed he would support voting for one of the Secretary-General Candidates not confirmed in Madrid.
Regardless of the outcome, it took a lot of courage and leadership for Dr. Mzembi to step forward. As the Candidate with the second largest number of votes, Mr. Mzembi has demonstrated a consistency over the entire election process in supporting UNWTO, attending events and being intelligently forthright. He appears to be well aware of his so-called weakest point, the perception of the country he represents.
This was outlined in his open letter. Mzembi stated: “I write proudly as a global citizen who did not choose where to be born nor had a choice of race or color, but one who understood that we are all created in Gods image and therefore equal before his Authority. I, therefore, don’t suffer any complexes nor am I intimidated by bigotry, otherwise, I wouldn’t have been a Candidate in the most recent election, noted Mzembi.
Mr. Mzembi indicated all Candidates, with the exception of the elected nominee, are highly qualified to honorably lead the UNWTO. This is completely in concert with the feedback eTN has been receiving from insiders that have yet to publicly voice their opinion and support of not simply ratifying the elected nominee.
Where does the UNWTO go from here?  A road map with solutions was issued this week by the Candidate from Zimbabwe, who simply wishes to see an authentic result at the General Assembly election in September.
As it stands world tourism is lost, mired in backroom dealings that has resulted in the disingenuous nomination of the Candidate Elect.
Correcting the miscreant Madrid result is still possible if industry leaders are courageous enough when the “timing is right”. There will never be a better time than September in Chengdu, China.

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