The FITUR travel trade show in Madrid was always a big event for UNWTO, not only because this UN agency is about tourism and is based in Madrid, but the world of tourism was coming together at FITUR .
Like WTM, ITB also FITUR planned for January 2021 and also just became a victim of Coronavirus. FITUR was postponed until May 2021.
UNWTO had its Executive Council meeting recently in Georgia and in a controversial move, it was decided to have the election for the 2022 Secretary-General term already in January 2021 during FITUR. Traditionally this meeting was always in May.
This short would force any candidate competing in the election with the current Secretary General to come forward and register this month in November. So far no one came forward.
With FITUR being postponed to May, will the UNWTO Secretary-General Pololikashvili still push his plan forward to organize the UNWTO Executive Council and UNWTO elections in January?
With Europe moving to the Winter season, the continent is getting hit hard by a second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic. Many governments are taking strong measures to curb the spread of the virus, and large events, including tourism fairs and conferences, are being canceled or postponed.
Since the decision about the postponement of FITUR has been taken, UNWTO Members and insiders have been wondering what this means for the upcoming UNWTO Executive Council meeting during which the elections for the new UNWTO Secretary-General will take place.
Last month, eTurboNews reported extensively about the UNWTO Executive Council that took place in Georgia.
UNWTO SG Pololikashvili had invited the Member States to the Executive Council in his home country Georgia, mainly to campaign for his re-election and to get their approval for his last-minute plan to bring the elections forward to January 2021. eTurboNews alleged this was done to limit the possibilities for other candidates to register on time and campaign.
Pololikashvili managed to get support from the Spanish Government to bring forward the Executive Council meeting to January with the argument that it could be well combined in conjunction with FITUR.
With FITUR now being postponed to May 2021, UNWTO Members and insiders wonder if it is safe, responsible, and practical to organize another high-profile tourism event, the UNWTO Executive Council in Madrid at the same time FITUR was cancelled due to health-safety reasons
There are many reasons not to do so. First of all, as a UN agency, UNWTO has the responsibility to collaborate actively with Governments and the International Community in all efforts taken to control the COVID-19 Pandemic and avoid using large events that cause a risk to contribute to the spread of the virus.
Also for practical reasons, it would not make sense to organize the Executive Council in January, as participants cannot combine it anymore with attending FITUR.
Most prominent, to facilitate fair elections in the midst of the COVID-19 Pandemic, it would be important to cancel any plan to bring forward the elections to January 2021, as new candidates have no opportunities to come forward. Even if candidates came forward there was little time to campaign.However, sources close to UNWTO reveal that the current UNWTO Secretary-General, Zurab Pololikashvili, is determined to continue his plan to organize the Executive Council in January, as this would only bring further advantages to him, that other candidates have even fewer opportunities to campaign.
If Tourism Ministers of Executive Council Member States could not travel to Madrid in January 2021 because of the COVID-19 Pandemic, Pololikashvili hopes that those countries will be represented at the Executive Council meeting by their Ambassadors or Embassy staff members
Having been a former Ambassador of Georgia in Madrid, the UNWTO Chief has a good network among “colleague Ambassadors”, and feels it will be even easier to secure their votes for him.
Further, Pololikashvili knows that most Ambassadors would arrive already with instructions received from the Ministries of Tourism on how to vote, and will not be in a position to change their vote even if noticing that other candidates may make a stronger impression at the debate and presentations prior to the voting.
Pololikashvili is well aware of his limited presentation and debating skills, which are far below what would be expected and required from a Head of a UN Agency. This was noticed and commented on many occasions by leading tourism stakeholders and government officials.
Therefore, Pololikashvili will do everything to assure the final debate and presentations prior to the voting cannot influence the decision of countries.
Whereas the World is struggling to overcome the challenges of the COVID-19 Pandemic and looking at UNWTO for guidance on mitigating the impact on the tourism sector, it seems the UNWTO Secretary-General Pololikashvili remains mainly interested in inventing plans and procedures that will secure his own re-election.
In a world where democracy and good governance become increasingly important, the question is how far someone can go to influence an election process with the sole objective to limit opportunities for other candidates to compete.
Of course, it’s up to both the UNWTO Member States and to the United Nations as an institution that has to be concerned about its reputation of integrity to decide if they let this all happen.
It can be hoped for the true leaders within the current UNWTO executive council to stand up now and secure a fair election process to also secure the integrity of the UNWTO election process altogether.
The current Chair of the UNWTO Executive Council is Kenya, Vice-Chair Italy, and Second Vice Chair Cabo Verde.
– eTurboNews | Trends | Travel News Online