Dr. Taleb Rifai was born in 1949. He is a Jordanian economist who was the Secretary-General of the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) based in Madrid, Spain, until December 31, 2017, having held the post since being unanimously elected in 2010 in Zambia/Zimbabwe at the UNWTO General Assembly.
Dr. Taleb Rifai was elected as Secretary-General of the World Tourism Organization at the General Assembly in Astana, Kazakhstan, held in October 2009 at which time he began his 4-year term on January 1, 2010.
He assumed the functions of Secretary-General ad interim of the World Tourism Organization from March 1, 2009 and served as Deputy Secretary-General from February 2006 to February 2009.
Mr. Rifai 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). Mr. Rifai has also served in several ministerial portfolios in the Government of Jordan – Minister of Planning and International Cooperation, Minister of Information, and Minister of Tourism and Antiquity.
Co-nominator: Mzamane Nhlapo, Lesotho: He is the driving force in the African Tourism Board, to ensure the success of domestic and international tourism in Africa, and to connect Africa to the world. This will have immense economic benefits to Africa.
As CEO of Jordan’s Cement Company, Mr. Rifai successfully led the first large-scale privatization and restructuring scheme in Jordan during the mid-1990s.
Other positions he has held include Director of the Economic Mission to Washington DC and Director General of the Investment Promotion Corporation of Jordan. Until 1993, Mr. Rifai was involved in research, teaching, and practicing architecture and urban design in Jordan and the USA.
He has a Ph.D. in Urban Design and Regional Planning from the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, an M.A. in Engineering and Architecture from the Illinois Institute of Technology (IIT) in Chicago, and a BS.c. in Architectural Engineering from the University of Cairo in Egypt.
Currently, Dr. Taleb Rifai has been working daily making a difference in the COVID-19 world as:
- Patron of the African Tourism Board
- Chair of the Project Hope Africa (an African response to COVID-19)
- Patron of the International Institute for Peace Through Tourism
- The Global Tourism Resilience and Crisis Center as a co-chair
- Co-chair for rebuilding.travel, a conversation with tourism leaders in 118 countries
- Chairman of the Advisory Board for the International Tourism & Investment Conference (ITIC)
Dr. Taleb has been an inspiration for the world tourism industry even after he retired from UNWTO. He was the first in the world pushing destinations to consider regional or domestic tourism first before opening their destinations.