Dr. Taleb Rifai was the Secretary-General of the United Nations’ World Tourism Organization, based in Madrid, Spain, until 31 December 2017, having held the post since being unanimously elected in 2010.
From 1973 to 1993, Mr. Rifai was a professor of Architecture at the University of Jordan in Amman. From 1993 to 1995, Rifai headed Jordan’s first Economic Mission to Washington DC, promoting trade, investments, and economic relations between Jordan and the United States. Rifai was also actively involved in policy making and developing investment strategies as Director General of the Investment Promotion Corporation (IPC) in Jordan (1995-1997).
From 1999 to 2003, he served in several ministerial portfolios in the Government of Jordan. First, he was appointed Minister of Planning and International Cooperation, in charge of Jordan’s Development Agenda and bilateral and multilateral relationships with donors and agencies.
In 2001, his portfolio was expanded to include the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquity, where he established Jordan’s first Archaeological Park in the ancient city of Petra in collaboration with UNESCO and the World Bank. He also realized several large projects in Jerash, the Dead Sea and Wadi Rum. As Minister of Tourism, he was the Chairman of the Jordan Tourism Board, President of the Amman School for Tourism and Hospitality and was elected Chairman of the Executive Council of UNWTO in 2001.
Prior to assuming his post at the UNWTO, Taleb Rifai was the Assistant Director-General of the International Labour Organization (ILO) for three consecutive years. His responsibilities included the overall supervision and implementation of the International Labor Standards, as well as advising on labor markets and employment policies, particularly in the Middle East region.
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.
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.