Zurab Pololikashvili (born in Tbilisi on 12 January 1977) is a Georgian politician and diplomat, currently serving as Secretary-General of the World Tourism Organization. From 2005 to 2009 he was Georgian deputy Foreign Minister, and he served as ambassador to Spain, Morocco, Algeria and Andorra.
|6th Secretary-General of the World Tourism Organization|
|Assumed office |
1 January 2018
|Preceded by||Taleb Rifai|
|Born||12 January 1977|
During his mandate as Secretary-General of UNWTO, Pololikashvili has advocated for tourism as a significant player in delivering sustainable solutions for people, the planet, prosperity and peace. Pololikashvili has widened the scope of UNWTOs work, including innovation, digital transformation, investment and online education, which are distinctive features of tourism as a sector spearheading new business models, people-to-people interaction, and leveraging social impact and development potential.
Against a backdrop of heightened uncertainty, under Pololikashvilis leadership UNWTO gathered the heads of the sector in the Global Tourism Crisis Committee to guide the tourism sector as it faced up to the COVID-19 challenge, recommending policies for recovery of the sector and cooperating closely with the World Health Organization (WHO), the lead UN agency for the management of this outbreak.
Pololikashvili holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Banking from the Georgian Technical University in Tbilisi, Georgia (1994 – 1998). He also has a Global Senior Management Program (GSMP) from IE Business School, Instituto de Empresa, Madrid, Spain (2008 – 2009).
After graduating with a degree in banking, Pololikashvili gained extensive experience in the private sector, including with a prominent role in one of Georgia’s biggest banks, serving as Manager of International Operations for TBC Bank, Director of TBC Bank’s Central Branch Office (2001-2005) and Vice President of TBC Group (2010 - 2011) and as CEO of the country’s leading football team, FC Dinamo Tbilisi (2001 – 2011).
After a year as Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs (2005-2006), he was appointed the Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Georgia to Spain (2006-2009), the Principality of Andorra, the People´s Democratic Republic of Algeria and the Kingdom of Morocco in 2006, and Permanent Representative of Georgia to the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) up to December 2017.
In this capacity as Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of Georgia, he supervised the departments for administrative, budgetary, financial and consular affairs, as well as the Department for Human Resources Management. Pololikashvili was responsible for ushering in a new phase of more liberal and secure visa regimes, facilitation of processes to ease border crossing procedures, and deepening relations with various international organizations, including UNWTO.
Between 2009 and 2010, he was Minister of Economic Development of Georgia. As a Minister of Economic Development of Georgia, Pololikashvili was responsible for overseeing the country’s long-term fiscal growth strategies, advancing foreign trade and investment policy initiatives as well as for promoting the development of the tourism, infrastructure and transportation sectors, establishing the tourism sector as a leading employer and contributor to national economic development.
He was instrumental in launching an innovative policy for the development of tourism in Georgia, prioritizing the sphere on both the government and private sector agendas. During Pololikashvili’s tenure as Minister of Economic Development, through key policy reforms, marketing activities, improvement of infrastructure and visa liberalization initiatives, Georgia nearly doubled the number of international tourist arrivals, from 1.5 million (2009) to exceeding the 2.8 million mark by 2011. Those reforms paved the way for sustainable tourism practices in Georgia and poverty alleviation initiatives, placing Georgia among the top tourism destinations in the region. Pololikashvili successfully led the economic liberalization processes, introducing supportive policies for SMEs, and incentive programmes to attract foreign investment for the development of hard and soft infrastructure.
Secretary-General of UNWTO during the COVID-19 pandemicEdit
The worldwide outbreak of COVID-19 brought the world to a standstill, and tourism sector was the worst affected of all major economic sectors. As Secretary-General of UNWTO, Pololikashvili took this crisis as an opportunity to rethink tourism development. He believes that recovery must involve transforming the sector, re-inventing tourism destinations and businesses, re-building the tourism ecosystem, and innovating and investing in sustainable tourism.
Pololikashvili has guided the sector, releasing recommendations for action and giving health advice for tourists. Moreover, as a UN agency specialized on tourism, UNWTO has released frequent travel restrictions reports as well as regular analysis on the COVID-19 impact on Tourism. Pololikashvili has centered his efforts in supporting measures to restart tourism from both governments and the private sector, though partnerships and agreements, with a special focus on innovation, education and digitalization.
“I take upon me to lead UNWTO with a strong focus on building partnerships, fostering jobs and opportunities for all, mastering technology and innovation and advancing sustainability and the fight against climate change.”
With a 60-80% decline in international tourism foreseen for 2020
and a drop of between US $910 billion and $1.2 trillion in exports, today over 100 million direct tourism jobs are at risk. Apart from this direct impact, the tourism economy is also linked to many other sectors including construction, agro-food, distribution services and transportation, all of which exacerbate the size of the shock.
COVID-19 has revealed the macroeconomic importance of tourism in most OECD and G20 economies. Many businesses across the sector are fighting to survive, with a disproportionate effect on women, young people, rural communities, indigenous peoples and informal workers – groups that are more likely to be employed in micro or small tourism businesses. This crisis is also creating an even greater hardship for low-income and developing economies, and their local communities, which disproportionately depend on tourism and hence face a serious risk of higher poverty. Under his leadership, UNWTO convened the Global Tourism Crisis Committee (GTCC), gathering the heads of the tourism sector to prepare a unified global response to the crisis and a guide towards recovery by ensuring with WHO that health measures are implemented in ways that minimize unnecessary impact on international travel and trade; by standing in solidarity with the affected countries; and by emphasizing tourism’s proven resilience and by standing ready to support recovery. The UNWTO-led Committee has held regular virtual meetings, reflecting the need for coordinated and efficient action by the private and public sectors, governments, international financing institutions, and the United Nations, with agencies such as the World Health Organization (WHO), the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) and the International Maritime Organization (IMO); Among the private sector were representatives from IFEMA, the International Air Transport Association (IATA), Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA), the Airports Council International (ACI), and the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC).
Awards and recognitionEdit
In June 2022, Pololikashvili was recognized by the International Hospitality Institute on the Global 100 in Hospitality, as one of the 100 Most Powerful People in Global Hospitality.
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- Steinmetz, Juergen T (1 September 2017). "How a Georgian journalist sees UNWTO nominee Zurab Pololikashvili for Secretary General? | Travel News | eTurboNews". Travel News | eTurboNews.
- "Zurab Pololikashvili Elected as New Secretary General of UNWTO - GTP Headlines". news.gtp.gr.
- "Zurab Pololikashvili Archives - The Diplomat in Spain". The Diplomat in Spain.
- Zhou, Zibanai (6 October 2020). "Critical shifts in the global tourism industry: perspectives from Africa". GeoJournal. doi:10.1007/s10708-020-10297-y.
- Mix, Pulse (2022-08-01). "Dr Jeffrey Obomeghie and Dupe Olusola among the 100 most powerful people in global hospitality". Pulse Nigeria. Retrieved 2022-08-03.
- New York Daily News: How to rescue global tourism from the Coronavirus pandemic
- Euronews: Stepping up support for a safe and sustainable recovery of tourism
- The Independent: Unless we take these steps, UK quarantine restrictions against Spain will do more harm than good
- Euractiv: Only through historic transformation can global tourism beat COVID-19
- Zurab Pololikashvili on Twitter