New UNWTO secretary-general a.i. to join panel for Tourism Society debate


The Tourism Society is delighted to announce that UNWTO secretary-general ad interim, Taleb Rifai, will be joining the panel for the “Tourism Society and UNWTO” debate on July 14, 2009 at the Royal College of Physicians, London.

Mr. Rifai will be joined by Christopher Rodrigues, chairman of VisitBritain; Marthinus Van Schalkwyk, minister of tourism of the Republic of South Africa; Lelei LeLaulu, chairman, Foundation of the Peoples of the South Pacific International; Geoffrey Lipman, UNWTO assistant secretary-general, Victoria University and Christel De Haan Institute; alongside other key industry figures to debate the role of tourism as an economic stimulator for the G20 nations.

Taleb Rifai served as deputy secretary-general at the UNWTO from February
2006 to February 2009 and has an extensive background in international and national public service, the private sector, and academia. Prior to joining UNWTO, he was the assistant director general of the International Labour Organization (ILO). He also served in several ministerial portfolios in the government of his native Jordan as minister of planning and international cooperation, minister of information and minister of tourism and antiquity.

The chairman of the debate will be society president, Lord Thurso MP, current shadow secretary of state for business, enterprise and regulatory reform. The debate will look at the implications of the G:20 summit outcomes on the international tourism industry, what the governments of the world are doing to combat the global recession, and where tourism fits in. It is hoped that this exciting debate will herald a “shift change” in attitudes of global governments who will finally take tourism seriously as a means to boost their ailing economies.

“As world leaders grapple with today’s unprecedented global economic conditions, we want to stress the potential for tourism and travel to support short-term stimulus actions, as well as longer-term transformation to a green economy, coherent with development and climate imperatives,” commented UNWTO assistant secretary-general Geoffrey Lipman.

The debate will follow the society’s 32nd AGM in the afternoon; all members are welcome to attend. Tickets for the debate can be bought online at; £35 for members, £50 for non-members. The society has a number of other events coming up including the Annual Conference in York on June 25.