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July 25, 2017

Why wait for the UNWTO General Assembly? New Secretary General positioning


Some may see it as a promising move, others are upset and concerned. The nominated but unconfirmed UNWTO Secretary General Zurab Pololikashvili has been receiving privileges only a confirmed nominee is expected to get.

It’s the most talked about and some say the most contested nomination by an UNWTO Executive Committee. Some leaders of the global travel and tourism industry and governments have shown serious doubts for the next UNWTO General Assembly to confirm the recommendation by the Executive Council.

This confirmation is needed for the nominee Ambassador Zurab Pololikashvili to officially become Secretary-General of the United Nations World Tourism Organization. This process will take place during the full UNWTO General Assembly in Chengdu, China in September 2017. Once confirmed the term will start January 1, 2018

The time after a possible confirmation from September to the end of the year could easily be used for the current Secretary General to show the Secretary General-Elect how the system works. According to information received by eTN, this process has already started.

Mr. Pololikasvili attended two top level management discussions in Madrid, usually only open to the Secretary General and his close inner circle and directors.  After all, this may not be and cannot be seen as a  malicious move by the current SG Taleb Rifai. Mr. Pololikasvili has been seen having little or no experience and may need all the training he can get.

“Secretary General UNWTO” is the title ambassador Pololikashvili published for himself on awards-tourism.com. The awards are known as the “Oscar” for Georgian tourism recognition. The National Tourism Awards proudly appointed Zurab also as a juror and named him “Secretary General of UNWTO.”

This cannot just be an innocent mistake, but it’s understanding people in Georgia are excited and proud to have one of their own to possibly become the leader of the global tourism world.

The awards enjoy big support from the Georgian government and from the private sector. National Tourism Administration of Georgia is a co-organizer of this project, The Ministry of Economics and Sustainable Development of Georgia and Tbilisi City Hall are Official Supporters. The Awards Ceremony is an opportunity to bring together national and local authorities, hotels, restaurants, tour operators, travel agencies, wine companies and more.

Another surprise move was for Pololikashvili to meet the Bulgarian Tourism Minister Angelkova and discussed issues only relevant to UNWTO and not anything only relevant for bilateral issues between Georgia and Bulgaria.

A report in the Bulgarian media said: “The Bulgarian Tourism Minister Angelkova met with UNWTO Secretary-General Nominee Pololikashvili held a working meeting in Belgrad at a Conference on Sustainable Tourism in the Danube Region.”

“The two considered the opportunities for cooperation between the Ministry of Tourism and the UNWTO, as well as future joint initiatives for sustainable development of the sector. Angelkova familiarized Pololikashvili with the steps taken by Bulgaria for sustainable development of tourism and assured him that the country will continue to be one of the most active UNWTO members.”

The Bulgarian minister told journalist at a press conference Bulgaria had supported the Georgian candidate with their vote. Bulgaria is a member of the UNWTO Executive Council.

Some think there may be nothing wrong for Zurab to meet Angelkova in regards to UNWO, but not announcing it, not facing the media could be relating a different message. Before and after his nomination in Madrid, the ambassador had been very quiet. Answering questions or laying out plans has not been his strength.

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