No show at World Travel Market: UNWTO Secretary General Zurab Pololikashvili.


The World Travel Market (WTM) in London is seen by many as the most important global tourism industry event together with ITB Berlin. The United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) for many years was seen the gatekeeper and utmost authority in the World about tourism. Not this year.

The previous UNWTO Secretary Taleb Rifai had a hands-on approach traveling the world and never left out an important opportunity and demonstrated Great understanding, mentorship,  and he left no opportunity to connect people. He clearly shows how much he cares about tourism.

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He built the largest and most influential network of tourism leaders based on trust and friendship. Now retired, Rifai was seen at this year’s World Travel Market. He spoke at key events on the sideline of WTM sharing his wisdom, influence and strong leadership.

Yesterday UNWTO was holding a ministerial summit on investment and innovation with many tourism ministers attending. CNN Richard Quest was hired to moderate and managed to keep the event engaged and informative.

Who was missing this year was the man himself, the UNWTO Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili. His deputy addressed the ministerial summit but had no mentioning or reason for Pololikahvli not showing up. eTN received many angry  “off the record” comments from ministers and key stakeholders saying UNWTO lost leadership anymore and became an institution or statistics. UNWTO was not mentioned at key events and appeared to have often vanished. The close partnership between UNWTO and WTTC was not brought up, but it appears other organizations are now gaining leadership in the world of tourism.

Rumors say Zurab didn’t want to face burning media questions about his unique and questionable leadership, others say he was busy campaigning in his home country Georgia for upcoming elections. As usual, there were no comments by UNWTO officials, and no press-conference is scheduled during WTM.

The official excuse for Zurab staying home:  He had to attend government meetings in Spain over the new headquarters!

Last year WTM London sparked a million meetings, resulting in around £3 billion in contracts.  If one has a game-changing travel product or service, this is where you tell the world.

A large number of tourism ministers attended and debated with members of the private industry at yesterday.  The Twitter ID  #ideasarrivehere didn’t result in many comments, some say a tag #And go no further should have been added – and all of this was not CNN  Richard Quest not doing a good job – he did.


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.