Having the UN specialist agency in Uzbekistan should have of course been a public relations opportunity for this country. Uzbekistan is seen by many in the world as a new and off-the-beaten-track destination for tourism.
Also, the World Tourism Organization must have had a reason to bring the General Assembly to Uzbekistan, and this reason became more and more obvious after the closing of the General Assembly.
If any journalist privileged enough to be invited to attend this important event thought this was an opportunity to learn more about Uzbekistan as a dynamic developing tourism destination, it was a big mistake.
If any journalist attended the event to learn more about UNWTO, global tourism, and outlook in the travel and tourism industry – it was a mistake.
All of this changed overnight on January 1, 2018, when critical media were banned, press conferences did not take place and journalists were censored so stories about favoritism, corruption, and manipulation in this organization could not surface easily.
The 25th-anniversary event of the UNWTO must have been held in Uzbekistan for a reason. The reason may have been that in case of an emergency, there was a way to keep the press uninformed and silent.
According to an article published by an attending journalist for the Stimme Heilbronn, Juergen Paul, the 25th General Assembly was an opportunity for UNWTO to polish its image and for Uzbekistan to be showcased as a dynamic tourism destination.
Juergen German language article says.
That this calculation works may be doubted. Neither the UNWTO nor the hosts were able to take advantage of this opportunity.
Professional press work during the conference in the magnificent congress center in Sarmakant did not happen.
There was no access for journalists.
Press room during the 25th UNWTO General Assembly in Uzbekistan (courtesy Stimme Heilbronn)
Journalists from all over the world were held in a press center in a hotel a few hundred meters next to the congress center on the outskirts of Samarkand.
The press room had a live video screen to take track of activities at the congress, but most of the time nothing was transmitted. There were no program items made available to the press.
On opening Monday journalists had to wait until the afternoon, until they finally saw Uzbekistan’s president Zhawkat Mirsiyoyev on the screen.
The workplaces in the press center were largely unused because the translation of the speech into English only worked for a short time at the end of the presentation– and nothing enlightening in terms of content was presented.
Trying to find a contact person within the UNWTO journalists tried to get information in vain. After an insignificant press release was released hopes were up among journalists – but only for a short time.
This hope that communication could improve however was bitterly disappointed.
Discussions at UNWTO GA remain a mystery
What the 1,700 delegates discussed in Samarkand still remains a mystery.
The official conference program is vague. Words such as sustainability, training, and investments were floating around.
With some rare opportunities for journalists to actually attend a program it quickly became clear that interest in sessions by most delegates was not really a priority.
In the huge conference room, the acoustics were so bad that delegates could hardly understand a word.
A better success in getting journalists and delegates to communicate was at the coffee bar during coffee breaks, but many tables remained constantly empty.
It was more crowded in the evening at the dinner, when journalists were invited as well. The opportunity to chat with some delegates in line at the buffet during the long fine food and wine bar was there.
International understanding and communication, the primary goal of the United Nations, had limited options among Europeans, Africans, and Asians
Americans, Canadians, Australians, and Scandinavians, however, did not travel to Samarkand.
They are not members of the UNWTO, which may have had to do with allegations of corruption and manipulation surrounding the UNWTO Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili.
UNWTO Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili celebrated as a POP STAR
The Georgian was celebrated by many participants like a pop star and willingly allowed himself to be photographed.
Despite this popularity, Zurab did not get enough votes to change statutes in UNWTO, so he could simply be appointed for a third term without an election after his turn will run out on December 31, 2025.