The life and career of Taleb Rifai has been celebrated by tourism industry leaders from around the world, with a new Global Tourism Resilience & Crisis Management Centre (GTRCMC) named in his honour.
The former secretary general of the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) saw the institution at the Middle East University dedicated in his native Jordan.
The centre will operate under the leadership of professor Salam Almahadin, president of the university.
Jamaica minister of tourism, Edmund Bartlett, and Kenya minister of tourism, Najib Balala, joined the celebrations, hosted by Nayef Himiedi Al-Fayez, minister of tourism for Jordan.
Al-Fayez said: “We welcome the inception of the Taleb Rifai Centre here at the Middle East University.
“We trust that this initiative will play a key role in delivering resilience, robustness and agility to the tourism industry which is one of the most important sectors in the Jordanian economy through its 13 per cent contribution to GDP.”
The GTRCMC model works in partnership with an outstanding institution of higher learning, namely a well-situated university with departments covering management, research, innovation, civics, policy creation and international development.
Middle East University is just such a partner and will be the regional driver for further expansion in the Middle East and north Africa.
Opened in 2005, the university has around 5,000 students, and through the Taleb Rifai Centre will seek to deliver an academically rigorous environment that will identify solutions.
Taleb Rifai has been instrumental in the Global Resilience & Crisis Management Centre project
Rifai is currently co-chair of the Global Resilience Centre & Crisis Management Centre and Global Travel & Tourism Resilience Council, as well as holding the role of chairman of the International Tourism Investment Corporation.
From 1973 to 1993, he was a professor of architecture at the University of Jordan in Amman, followed by two years as head of the first Jordanian economic mission to Washington DC.
In this role he was tasked with 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 from 1995 to 1997.
In the three years preceding his service in the Jordanian cabinet, he was appointed the chief executive of the Jordan Cement Company, one of the largest public shareholding companies with over 4,000 employees.
During his term he successfully led the first large-scale privatisation and restructuring scheme in Jordan, by bringing in the French cement company Lafarge in 1998 and continued to serve as chief executive under the new management.
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 the development agenda and bilateral and multilateral relationships with donors and agencies.
He was subsequently appointed minister of information, the spokesman of the government of Jordan, as well as being in charge of communications and public media.
During his tenure, he embarked on restructuring public media and in particular the Jordan Television Network.
In 2001, his portfolio was expanded to include the ministry of tourism and antiquity, where he established the first archaeological park in the ancient city of Petra in collaboration with UNESCO and the World Bank.
He also realised 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 & Hospitality and was elected chairman of the executive council of the UNWTO in 2001.
Prior to assuming his post at the UNWTO, Rifai was the assistant director general of the International Labour Organisation (ILO) for three consecutive years.
Rifai served as the deputy secretary general of the UNWTO from February 2006 to February 2009, at which point he took over the role of secretary general.
He was selected as the official candidate to be presented to entire 155-member inter-governmental body in May 2009, receiving 20 out of 31 votes.
He was elected for a second four-year term, starting in 2014, by the twentieth session of UNWTO General Assembly 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.