Former Secretary General, Patron and Founder Member and Chairperson, UNWTO

Taleb Rifai (born in 1949) is a Jordanian who was the Secretary-General of the United Nations’ World Tourism Organization, based in Madrid, Spain, until the 31st of December 2017, having held the post since being unanimously elected in 2010.

The first Jordanian to hold a UN agency Secretary General position. Taleb Rifai served as the Deputy Secretary-General of the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) from February 2006 to February 2009, at which point he took over the role of Secretary-General ad interim on 1 March 2009.

Rifai was selected as the official candidate to be presented to entire 155 member inter-governmental body on 12 May 2009, receiving 20 out of 31 votes. Korean Dr. Oh Jee-Chul, from the Korea Tourism Organization (KTO), received 10 out of the 11 remaining votes, with the final single vote being given to Mr. Khalid Malik, the Pakistani UN Resident Coordinator in China. The fourth candidate, Mr. Arab Hoballah, the Chief of Sustainable Consumption and Production in the UN Environment Program of Lebanon, withdrew.

In October 2009, Rifai was unanimously elected by the entire body, and began his four-year term on 1 January 2010. He was elected for a second four-year term, starting in January 2014, by the 20th Session of UNWTO General Assembly in August 2013 and served in that capacity through 2017. In his Statement of Intent and Management for the period 2014-2017, Rifai expressed his sense of gratitude and accomplishment looking back at his first term as UNWTO Secretary-General, and outlined the focus for his current term: Travel and Tourism’s contributions and responsibilities in a rapidly changing global scene, UNWTO leading the Travel and Tourism Agenda, and the assessment of the reform process UNWTO underwent between 2009-2013. Zurab Pololikashvili, Ambassador of Georgia to Spain, Morocco, Algeria and Andorra, was appointed as Rifai’s successor as Secretary General of the UNWTO for the period 2018-2021.

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