UNWTO confirms new secretary general

UNWTO confirms new secretary general

The UN World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) has appointed Zurab Pololikashvili as secretary general for 2018-2021.

Pololikashvili, the current Georgian Ambassador to Spain, Morocco, Algeria and Andorra, will take over from outgoing secretary general Taleb Rifai at the end of the year.

His appointment was confirmed by the UNWTO General Assembly in Chengdu, China, on Thursday following a challenge by defeated candidate Walter Muzembi, minister of tourism for Zimbabwe.

Muzembi alleged irregularities in the UNWTO executive council election in May which saw Pololikashvili emerge as secretary general elect in a run off with Muzembi.

Rifai dismissed the allegations, insisting: “The process was impeccable. We cannot accept people saying the process was flawed.

“There was full observance of the rules in conducting the election of the secretary general. We did it by the book and I would challenge anyone who says different.”

However, he said: “On the request of Zimbabwe we have set up a working group to examine the procedures for the election of secretary general.”

Rifai described the assembly’s confirmation of Pololikashvili as “an expression of extraordinary unity”.

He said: “We have started something [now] in different circumstances to when I became secretary general [in 2009-10], when the world was in the worst crisis for decades.”

Pololikashvili said: “My vision for the UNWTO is based on the needs of its member states.”

Acknowledging the row over his election, he said: “Maybe we need to make some changes to the way we elect the secretary general. I will invite minister Muzembi to make this investigation.”

Muzembi said: “I commit to support Zurab Pololikashvili to the fullest extent. I have accepted the responsibility to lead the process to examine the rules for electing the general secretary. That does not by any means invalidate the decision. I endorse that decision.”

Pololikashvili is a former minister of economic development and deputy minister of foreign affairs in Georgia.

World Travel & Tourism Council president and chief executive Gloria Guevara, congratulated him on his confirmation, saying: “It is a position of enormous importance to our sector and I look forward to working with him.

“The close collaboration between the WTTC and UNWTO over the past eight years has resulted in a more unified and cohesive international travel and tourism sector.”

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