Chinese influence on world tourism politics almost complete with latest UNWTO move

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This move was expected, implemented on January 1 and announced only today, January 25. UNWTO Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili appointed Mr. Shanzhong Zhu as Executive Director of UNWTO. eTN had reached out to UNWTO earlier this month to get confirmation on appointments, but no response was received.

A move for the new Georgian Secretary-General to appoint a Chinese Executive Director was expected by eTN long before the last UNWTO General Assembly. eTN had reported about a meeting with the Secretary-General and CNTA on August 28. It was assumed this possible outcome of Chinese participation in UNWTO may have been already sealed and agreed on.

The confirmation for Zurab Pololikashvili as UNWTO Secretary-General became a top priority for China when hosting the assembly in Chengdu. The importance was obvious with the launch of the World Tourism Alliance.

On September 13 during the General Assembly in Chengdu, China the World Tourism Alliance was launched under the leadership of CNTA. The founder was no other than Mr.  Li Jinzao, Chairman of the China National Tourism Administration. The World Tourism Alliance is a new initiative with top name brand leadership organizations as founding members. They include brand names like Taleb Rifa, Roget Dow, CEO of the US Travel Association, WTTC and many more.

At the founding event during the UNWTO General Assembly in Chengdu, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang sent a congratulatory letter. Li Jinzao, Chairman of China National Tourism Administration (CNTA) and Director of the Preparatory Committee for the WTA, read the congratulatory letter and delivered remarks. UNWTO Secretary-General Taleb Rifai and WTA Chairman Duan Qiang also gave speeches.

Present at the ceremony included His Royal Highness Prince Sultan bin Salman bin Abdul Aziz, President of Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage, Mikheil Janelidze, Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of Georgia, Joe Natuman, Vanuatu’s Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Trade, Yin Li, Governor of Sichuan Province, Du Jiang, Vice Chairman of CNTA, and Luo Qiang, Mayor of Chengdu.

The WTA consists of 89 founding members, 29 in China and 60 from overseas countries, including 62 enterprises, 24 associations, two (2) academic institutions and one media agency. The Association and its Secretariat is currently headquartered in China’s capital, Beijing. (click here )

According to today’s UNWTO press release, Mr. Zhu, a Chinese national, began his two-year term on 1 January 2018. This was only announced on January 25. Mr. Zhu joined UNWTO in 2014 as Executive Director. Prior to his appointment, he was Vice Chairman of China National Tourism Administration (CNTA).

This position puts China clearly in the top leadership of World Tourism with decisionmaking influence on most aspects of world tourism politics. With China developing the largest outbound tourism industry in the world this ambition is not surprising.

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Juergen Thomas Steinmetz has continuously worked in the travel and tourism industry since he was a teenager in Germany (1979), beginning as a travel agent up through today as a publisher of eTurboNews (eTN), one of the world’s most influential and most-read travel and tourism publications. He is also Chairman of ICTP. His experiences include working and collaborating with various national tourism offices and non-governmental organizations, as well as private and non-profit organizations, and in planning, implementing, and quality control of a range of travel and tourism-related activities and programs, including tourism policies and legislation. His major strengths include a vast knowledge of travel and tourism from the point of view of a successful private enterprise owner, superb networking skills, strong leadership, excellent communication skills, strong team player, attention to detail, dutiful respect for compliance in all regulated environments, and advisory skills in both political and non-political arenas with respect to tourism programs, policies, and legislation. He has a thorough knowledge of current industry practices and trends and is a computer and Internet junkie.