#UNWTOElections: A Quick Look at the Candidates Vying for the Top Job


Representatives from six countries are contesting for the Secretary-General of the United Nations world tourism organization (UNWTO) in this year’s elections.

The nominees from Zimbabwe, Seychelles, Colombia, Republic of Korea, Georgia and Brazil have to win two-thirds of vote cast by delegates from member countries present at an executive assembly on 12 May in Spain.

Zimbabwean candidate, Hon. Dr. Walter Mzembi is the current Minister of Tourism and Hospitality Industry for Zimbabwe. He also serves as on the Executive Council of UNWTO and again as Chairman of UNWTO Regional Commission for Africa. Dr. Mzembi is running with an agenda for administrative and governance reform of the organization, responsible tourism and sustainability, resource mobilization and organizational repositioning and brand development.

H.E. Zurab Pololikashvili is a Permanent Representative of Georgia to the World tourism organisation and Ambassador extraordinary and plenipotentiary of Georgia to Spain, Algeria and Morocco. According to his statement of intent, he will put “emphasis on concrete projects with tangible outcomes to further support members of UNWTO in era of innovation, knowledge-sharing and entrepreneurship.” H. E. Pokolikashvili is also campaigning for “a shift in the internal working of the organisation to focus on the same goal.”

The only candidate who is yet to hold any office in the UNWTO is Alain Raoul Basil Marie St. Ange of Seychelles. He resigned last year December as Tourism Minister after being instrumental in revamping the tourism industry in Seychelles after the country suffered major economic crisis in 2008. Based on his thirty-seven years of experience in hotel management and tourism development, St. Ange intends to build on the legacy of former Secretary-General’s with emphasis on safety and security, sustainability and climate while ensuring the organisation represents tourism entirely. St. Ange will also create a Secretary-General emeritus position if voted into office.

Executive Director for Operational Programmes and Institutional Relations of the World Tourism Organisation, Márcio Favilla I. De Paula is Brazil’s candidate for the Secretary-General position. With a mission for “continuous competitiveness and sustainability of UNWTO, De Paula is looking to “foster effective integration with the United Nations system, step up effort to bring additional funding, ensuring safe secure travel and promoting partnerships among other policy targets.

Ambassador Dho Young-Shim of the Republic of Korea is the only woman in the race and chairperson of the UNWTO ST-EP Foundation board of directors. She is championing an agenda for “a practical action plan towards a dependable and sustainable world tourism” by establishing international conventions on tourism, eliminating barriers to travel, crisis prevention, response and recovery as well embedding tourism as part of the global growth agenda. If she wins, Young-Shim will become the first woman to hold the position.

Colombia is represented by Jaime Alberto Cabal Sanclemente, ambassador to several European countries including Austria, Hungary, Czech Republic and Montenegro. He is also the permanent represenstive to the United Nations and other international orgaizations for Colombia. Sanclemente’s goal is to transform UNWTO towards an “increase of its utility by interpreting the scope and current and future needs of world tourism and harmonizing its principles with the sustainable development goals.

A seventh candidate, Mr. Vahan Martirosyan of Albania withdrew his candidature on April, 10 2017.
The Secretariat received seven other applications which were not accompanied by the required documents. Hence, were not submitted to the 105th session of the Executive Council.
Whoever wins the election will serve a four year term renewable by the recommendation of the executive council. Current Secretary-General, Taleb Rifai has been in office for eight years.