UNWTO General Assembly Kicks Off

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The 22nd United Nations World Tourism Organization

(UNWTO) General Assembly has opened for pre-opening sessions in Chengdu, China on Monday.


+ Three regional committees each held a meeting: the Americas, Middle East and Africa convened to elect their new committee countries for the next UNWTO Executive Council.


+ Proposed Secretary-General Elect, Zurab Pololikashvili made a brief appearance before the several regional committee conferences. The same prepared comments were made to all regions, with the exception of one remark, which was made solely to the Europe committee. 

Pololikashivili aggrandized if he won the SG election “it would be a win for Europe”. This divisive comment, from a proposed Secretary-General Elect, appears to pit regions against regions, which is not in concert with a united, cohesive UNWTO.


Another curious remark was the promise that Pololikashvili would “share our leadership”. One assumes the Secretary-General Elect, if approved, intended to convey he would share the leadership with the UNWTO membership. However, given a widespread belief Pololikashvili is simply a figurehead for Georgian top level politicians with an agenda unrelated to tourism, it was perhaps an unfortunate comment.  

Breaking with protocol, the prepared statement was not made available to the media, and Pololikashvili is not available for interviews or clarification.


+ In other news, Nigeria will host the 61st conference of the United Nations World Tourism Commission For Africa (UNWTO CAF) in June, 2018. The Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed congratulated outgoing Secretary-General, Taleb Rifai on his stewardship of the UNWTO . He also commended Walter Mzembi, the out-going Chairman of CAF and Zimbabwe’s Minister of Tourism on the successful completion of his leadership of CAF.


+ Indian media are reporting Kerala tourism minister, Kadakampally Surendran  has been denied permission by the Indian Ministry of Affairs to attend the General Assembly. Sources claim the decision is related to the Belt and Road initiative. However, Minister Surendran said,”Don’t you know the way the BJP government acts? I feel the only reason for being denied permission to travel is nothing but political.”

This World Committee on Tourism Ethics met

ST-EP Foundation lunch was a popular event on Tuesday attended by  a senior member of Samsung  to sign an MOU with UNWTO allowing to bring badly needed support to the popular  ST-EP program under the leadership of Ambassador Dho Young-shim from South Korea. Dho Young-shim recognized Professor Geoffrey Lipman as the :ST-EP father since he started the initiative more than 15 years ago.


This General Assembly in Chengdu has two highly anticipated voting sessions that has generated widespread global interest: the Secretary-General election and the application of Palestine to become a member of UNWTO. Israel is continuing efforts to block Palestine’s bid to become a member of the UNWTO, which will be voted on during the assembly. Like the Secretary-General election, it will require 2/3 of the voting assembly to approve Palestine’s membership into the UNWTO.