Written by Juergen Steinmetz, January 25, 2018
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. WorldTourismWire 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, Roger 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.
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.