The leadership of the UNWTO and the WTTC and why it matters
In recent months there has been considerable debate in some sections of the travel industry media about the upcoming appointment of a successor to the UN World Tourism Organization’s Secretary General, Dr Taleb Rifai. Between 11-16 September, at the UNWTO’s General assembly meeting in Chengdu, China, the next UNWTO Secretary General will be nominated and a vote will be held requiring a two third’s majority. I make no personal judgement about the nominee Mr Zurab Pololikashvili. I have never met him and know little about him apart from the fact that he has considerable political and foreign affairs experience. When he served Georgia’s Minister for economic development (2009-10), tourism to Georgia grew on his watch.
However, there is no doubt that his nomination has aroused controversy. His direct involvement with the global tourism industry is limited compared to Dr Rifai and his nomination has attracted outspoken critics and supporters. However, the concern that every tourism industry professional should have is that the leaders of tourism’s two major global bodies, the UN World Tourism Organisation and the World Travel and Tourism Council are people who are widely recognised and respected as industry leaders.
Over the past few years the UNWTO has benefited from the wise and diplomatic leadership of Taleb Rifai, a former and well respected tourism Minister of Jordan. This was counterbalanced by the enlightened leadership of David Scowsill who was a widely respected CEO of the World Travel and Tourism Council. Rifai and Scowsill established an alliance between their respective global organisations which greatly strengthened the global advocacy of the global tourism industry over the past 8 years. An alliance between the political and the business wings of global tourism is vital for tourism to attract political support around the world.
The replacement of the WTTC’s former CEO David Scowsill by Ms Gloria Guevara Manzo has been widely welcomed. Ms Guevara was a former tourism minister of Mexico and has an extensive background in airlines and GDS companies. She has long been a prominent figure in world tourism. Her appointment maintains the WTTC’s commitment to professional leadership. The question that the global tourism industry needs to address is whether Mr Pololikashvili will be able to maintain the very high standards of the UNWTO’s tourism leadership set by Taleb Rifat and maintain the alliance with the WTTC.
In the event that Mr Pololikashvili secures the position of UNWTO Secretary general it will be vital for all members of the UNWTO and the wider global tourism industry to unite and support him. The global tourism industry cannot afford the fragmentation which weakened its global leadership in the past. It will also be important for other global tourism organizations, especially the WTTC to express their willingness to maintain the alliance between the world’s key tourism bodies which has served global tourism so well over the past few years. The global tourism industry has a number of shared common challenges including security, sustainability. a commitment to ethical business practices and the sharing of technological expertise. These are most effectively addressed when the key global tourism associations are working together.