Candidates make their final pitches in an effort to take the top spot at the World Tourism Organisation

The UNWTO’s current Secretary-General, Taleb Rifai of Jordan, has served in the position since January 2010 and is stepping down at the end of this year. The organisation’s 33-nation executive board is thus meeting to choose a nominee in May – to be voted on by its General Assembly later this year – to serve as Secretary- General for the 2018 to 2021 term.

By the deadline on 11th March, seven candidates had postulated, supported by their home nation’s government. On average, each candidate delivered a CV and a Statement of Policy and Management Intent averaging 9 pages; each with major ambitions for the organisation – each highly different from the other. Following are some selected highlights of the candidatures*.

Vahan_MartirosyanARMENIA – Vahan Martirosyan

Born in 1962 in Yerevan, Armenia, Mr Martirosyan has most recently been working in the position of Minister for Transport, Communication and Information Technology in Armenia.

Mr Martirosyan points out the possible adverse effects of tourism on environmental conservation, cultural enrichment and socio-cultural authenticity, causing “considerable environmental and cultural heritage damage”. This, he says, poses enormous responsibility along with challenges and opportunities for a global multilateral agency such as the UNWTO to “remain relevant, offer leadership and serve the very purpose for which it was created”.

favilla_luccaBRAZIL – Màrcio Favilla Lucca de Paula

Mr Favilla Lucca de Paula is currently Executive Director for Competitiveness, External Relations and Partnerships at the UNWTO. He has been in this position since January 2010. From 2007 to 2009, he was also Vice Minister of the Secretariat of Institutional Relations of the Presidency of Brazil and was Brazil’s first Vice Minister of Tourism (2003-2007) where he played a key role in the structuring of the first exclusive Ministry of Tourism in Brazil.

In defining the agenda for 2018-2021, Mr Favilla Lucca de Paula states that UNWTO’s activities must be geared towards two clear strategic overarching objectives: competitiveness and sustainability.

Jaime Alberto Cabal SanclementeCOLOMBIA – Jaime Alberto Cabal Sanclemente

Mr Sanclemente Colombia’s Ambassador to Austria and is the country’s permanent representative to the United Nations and other international organisations based in Vienna.

He says he is aiming to introduce and bring to life different aspects of “renovation, change and modernisation” in the organisation. Sanclemente calls for a more “open, inclusive and democratic” UNWTO, achieving a “modernised UNWTO with higher efficiency and enhanced synergy with the United Nations Organisation”, a UNWTO that “achieves a more agile interpretation of the challenges faced by the global tourism or the present and future”, one that “promotes new support tools for the strengthening of the tourism sector of countries and regions”.

Zurab PololikashviliGEORGIA – Zurab Pololikashvili

Georgian Minister of Economy in 2009-2010, Mr Pololikashvili currently serves as resident representative of Georgia at UNWTO and is Ambassador of Georgia to Spain.

In his submission, Mr Pololikashvili says it is “time to usher in a new era of applied initiatives”. He says the UNWTO will undertake “a new feat of supporting countries not just on the national or regional level, but will become more approachable to provide guidelines on management and marketing for different types of tourist destinations in order to ensure further growth and competitiveness”. He adds that the organisation will “consequently become a reference point for destination marketing and management organisations, both on national as well as local level”.

Young-shim DhoREPUBLIC OF KOREA – Dho Young-shim

Already Chairperson of the UNWTO’s Sustainable Tourism for Eliminating Poverty (ST-EP) Foundation, Ambassador Dho promotes tourism, sports and education to fight poverty in the world’s least developed countries. Ms Dho says that “in these times of continuous change and turbulence, the UNWTO needs to reassure and inspire its members, and to stand out as a stable, mature, pragmatic and efficient institution”.

One of her key aims would be to establish an international convention on tourism. She claims the UNWTO must “become swifter, not slimmer and its action should be more member-focused”. If elected, Ms Dho would be the first woman – and also the first Asian to hold the top position.

Saint AngeSEYCHELLES – Alain St.Ange

Former Minister for Tourism for the Seychelles, Alain St.Ange was largely responsible for re-launching Seychelles as a tourism destination after the economic difficulties of 2008 in the island’s main tourism market.

Mr St.Ange states that while the tourism industry has made and continues to make real achievements in growth, “we still have to recognise there is much work to do in quality and standards.” The former Minister cites challenges faced by the industry – involving both natural and man-made crises, stating “insecurity and the loss of safety labels is a new category of crisis that remains with tourism destinations for longer durations, and the effects drag on with no solution in sight”.

Walter MzembiZIMBABWE – Walter Mzembi

Mr Walter Mzembi has been a member of parliament in his country since 2004 and since 2009 has held the Tourism and Hospitality portfolio. He has already been a member of the UNWTO executive council and held two successive terms as Chairman of the UNWTO Regional Commission for Africa.

In his submission, Dr Mzembi claims there is a clear need for “reform and renewal” of the UNWTO as the overseer and custodian of global tourism. A fundamental element of his vision is to “work towards universal membership of the organisation and to actively engage those nations which remain outside the UNWTO to consider joining or re-joining”