The Race for UNWTO Sec­re­tary-Gen­eral

The United Na­tions World Tourism Or­gan­i­sa­tion (UNWTO) has an­nounced the names of the seven can­di­dates who will be com­pet­ing in the race for the top tourism in­dus­try post of Sec­re­tary-Gen­eral to re­place Taleb Ri­fai when his term ends in De­cem­ber this year.

Tourism Tattler - - EDITORIAL - By Des Langk­ilde.

The gov­ern­ments of UNWTO mem­ber states Ar­me­nia, Brazil, Colom­bia, Ge­or­gia, Korea, Sey­chelles and Zim­babwe have en­dorsed their re­spec­tive can­di­dates for election to the post, which is due to take place dur­ing the UNWTO Ex­ec­u­tive Coun­cil meet­ing sched­uled to be held in Madrid, Spain on 11 May 2017.

Af­ter 42 years of Euro­pean, North Amer­i­can, and Asian lead­er­ship dom­i­na­tion, Africa fi­nally has a chance to take the helm and steer the UNWTO into the global fu­ture of tourism as the race for the top post heats up. France, Aus­tria, Mex­ico, and Jor­dan have led the UNWTO thus far, with France and Jor­dan hav­ing served two four-year terms.

Since the UNWTO started op­er­a­tions in Novem­ber 1974 as the United Na­tions agency re­spon­si­ble for the pro­mo­tion of re­spon­si­ble, sus­tain­able and uni­ver­sally ac­ces­si­ble tourism, it has not had an African coun­try Sec­re­tary-Gen­eral at the helm. This de­spite the fact that one the orig­i­nal aims of the In­ter­na­tional Congress of Of­fi­cial Tourist Traf­fic As­so­ci­a­tions (ICOTT) – the pre­cur­sor to UNWTO founded in 1920 – was, and still is, to “ex­tract the best out of tourism as an in­ter­na­tional trade com­po­nent and as an eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment strat­egy for de­vel­op­ing na­tions.”

As the high­est of­fice in the global tourism in­dus­try, the can­di­date who wins the race for the post of Sec­re­tary-Gen­eral will in­flu­ence not only his or her own con­ti­nent and coun­try’s fu­ture, but the fu­ture of global is­sues such air ac­cess and the de­vel­op­ment of sus­tain­able tourism for the next four years (2018-2021), which is why it is so im­por­tant to have a non-par­ti­san coun­try leader with proven ex­pe­ri­ence, ethics, and vi­sion to win this election.

As a me­dia pub­lisher of travel trade news and editorial con­tent, I’ve re­searched the back­grounds and fol­lowed the cam­paign speeches of most of the can­di­dates, and I can hon­estly say that the Sey­chelles can­di­date, Alain St.Ange stands out most promi­nently from the crowd.

Per­haps I’m be­ing bi­ased as St.Ange is the only can­di­date whom I have per­son­ally met. He is also the only can­di­date who keeps the me­dia in­formed on his cam­paign progress, who ac­tu­ally replies to emails and who en­gages reg­u­larly on so­cial me­dia. In fact, when St.Ange still held the po­si­tion of Sey­chelles Min­is­ter re­spon­si­ble for Tourism, Civil Aviation, Ports and Marine, he was the only Min­is­ter I know of who per­son­ally made the ef­fort to meet and greet hosted me­dia late at night on ar­rival at the is­lands Mahé air­port.

Back­ground

St.Ange has been work­ing in the tourism in­dus­try since 2009. He stud­ied Ho­tel Man­age­ment and Tourism at schools in Ger­many and France be­fore launch­ing his own ca­reer in hos­pi­tal­ity. He held sev­eral po­si­tions with ho­tels and restau­rants in Sey­chelles, the Chan­nel Is­lands, and Aus­tralia be­fore land­ing the role of Gen­eral Man­ager for De­nis Is­land, a pri­vate re­sort in Sey­chelles. It was this ex­ten­sive ex­pe­ri­ence in the hos­pi­tal­ity field, in ad­di­tion to his politi­cal up­bring­ing, that even­tu­ally led him to be ap­pointed as the Di­rec­tor of Mar­ket­ing for Sey­chelles. Af­ter one year of ser­vice, he was pro­moted to the po­si­tion of CEO of the Sey­chelles Tourism Board. In 2012 he was in­stru­men­tal in found­ing the In­dian Ocean Vanilla Is­lands Re­gional Or­gan­i­sa­tion – a con­sor­tium de­signed to com­bine the strengths of the is­lands lo­cated in the In­dian Ocean to present a strong front in a com­pet­i­tive mar­ket – to which St.Ange was ap­pointed as the first pres­i­dent. In a 2012 cab­i­net reshuf­fle he was ap­pointed as Min­is­ter of Tourism and Cul­ture, and sub­se­quently as the Sey­chelles Min­is­ter re­spon­si­ble for Tourism, Civil Aviation, Ports and Marine. He re­signed from his Min­is­te­rial post in Jan­uary 2017 to pur­sue the UNWTO Sec­re­taryGen­eral po­si­tion. Among his many ac­com­plish­ments, St.Ange ini­ti­ated the Car­naval In­ter­na­tional de Vic­to­ria in 2011 – an an­nual event that not only cel­e­brates cul­ture and di­ver­sity but has had a sig­nif­i­cant im­pact on Sey­chelles tourism ar­rival fig­ures and gained the coun­try count­less friends in the me­dia and sig­nif­i­cant in­ter­na­tional ex­po­sure. St.Ange is flu­ent in English, French and Cre­ole, and speaks Ger­man, which makes him qual­i­fied to rep­re­sent var­i­ous walks of so­ci­ety.

While all seven can­di­dates have their own dis­tin­guished back­grounds and have ac­cu­mu­lated the req­ui­site ex­pe­ri­ence, what is more im­por­tant, is what they plan to do if elected as the next Sec­re­tary-Gen­eral.

St.Ange un­der­stands that it is not a coun­try’s gov­ern­ment that builds a tourism in­dus­try – its peo­ple do. Those en­trepreneurs who in­vest in cre­at­ing the prod­ucts, in em­ploy­ing and train­ing their staff to pro­vide ex­cel­lent ser­vice, the ef­forts of a myr­iad of al­lied ser­vice providers, and above all, the cit­i­zens them­selves who com­bine to pro­vide mem­o­rable ex­pe­ri­ences and fond mem­o­ries as hosts to their in­ter­na­tional guests – they build the tourism in­dus­try.

On the sub­ject of Safety & Se­cu­rity, one of the no­table changes to the UNWTO’s cur­rent struc­ture that Alain men­tions in his Seven-Point-Plan State­ment of In­tent, is to es­tab­lish Re­gional Of­fices in Mem­ber States with a ‘field pres­ence’ per­son to “…en­sure that part­ner or­gan­i­sa­tions and the me­dia join to­gether to plan the most suit­able course of ac­tion for the Mem­ber States.” He also points out that “The UNWTO must ap­pre­ci­ate the im­por­tance of the me­dia in this chal­lenge, and it is only by en­gag­ing with them as part­ners that they will be able to ap­pre­ci­ate the de­struc­tive po­ten­tial of in­se­cu­rity on the tourism in­dus­try.”

But see­ing as my vote, or yours for that mat­ter doesn’t count (un­less you serve on the UNWTO Ex­ec­u­tive Coun­cil of course), let’s hope that com­mon sense rather than politi­cal ma­noeu­vring pre­vails in the up­com­ing elec­tions on 11 May.

AR­ME­NIA Va­han Mar­tirosyan BRAZIL Már­cio Fav­illa COLOM­BIA Jaime San­clemente GE­OR­GIA Zurab Polo­likashvili KOREA Young-shim Dho SEY­CHELLES Alain St. Ange ZIM­BABWE Wal­ter Mzembi

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