Minister of Tourism and Hospitality Industry, Dr Walter Mzembi formally presented his bid for the post of Secretary General of the United Nations World Tourism Organisation in Madrid, Spain on Thursday.
In his address, Dr Mzembi revealed that according to the American luxury and lifestyle travel magazine – Conde Nast Traveller – Zimbabwe is ranked as the best tourism destination in Africa followed by Rwanda.
“As I speak, the American luxury and lifestyle travel magazine – Conde Nast Traveller – in its listing of the 17 best places to visit in 2017, described Zimbabwe as Africa’s best destination, listing us at number 13, followed by Rwanda at number 14. Canada topped this prestigious ranking – and we are proud and indeed gratified to be classified amongst the world’s very best.
“This is but the latest of numerous international accolades and endorsements bestowed upon Zimbabwe in the wake of our focused and sustained re-branding thrust a thrust which turned adversity into opportunity, negative energy into positive, and which successfully leveraged the country’s amazing tourism product to develop infinitely more positive, more enticing narrative,” Dr Mzembi said.
He added that he takes pride in the clean bill of travel health enjoyed by destination Zimbabwe and in its unbroken 33 year tourist-safety record, both of which contributed to the resounding global endorsement manifested in the holding of the 2013 UNWTO General Assembly at the Victoria Falls.
Dr Mzembi further said that Zimbabwe has seen a steady growth in the tourism sector despite suffering a setback in the previous years as some members of the international community spoke ill of the country which had seen tourists snubbing the Southern African country.
While launching his ambitious bid to lead the UNWTO, Mzembi said the time is ripe for Africa to be considered for the top tourism post as can be seen by the ever increasing number of tourist flocking to Africa.
“However, whether it is IUOTO (International Union of Official Tourist Organisation), WTO World Tourism Organisation) or UNWTO, the fact is that Europe has been in the driving seat of global tourism for a record 46 years.
“Thereafter, Latin America in the form of Mexico headed the Organisation for 8 years. Then, for the past 8 years, we have been led by the Middle East.
“Neither Africa nor Asia has been accorded this privilege or this responsibility. Whilst acknowledging and expressing our sincere admiration and gratitude for the leadership and indeed the powerful legacy bequeathed by the afore-mentioned regions, we strongly believe it is now Africa’s time,”
He noted that applying the admittedly informal principle of rotational equity that prevails at the United Nations, it is not difficult to see why, to some degree, Africa has this sense of expectation nor the appeal Africa is making, by way of his nomination and the endorsement he has received from African Heads of State and Government, for the support of all UNWTO members for his candidature,
He expressed confidence in his ability to lead the UNWTO, buoyed by the overwhelming support given to him by both the SADC region and African governments through their Heads Of State.
“Today I stand before you, nominated by Zimbabwe and endorsed by both SADC and the Africa Union as its official candidate.
“The endorsement of African Heads of State and Government came only after a rigorous defence of my candidature and a comprehensive presentation of my vision for the future of the UNWTO before the African Candidatures Committees, which oversees proposals for the deployment of Africans to multilateral and international systems.
“Africa is therefore deploying a candidate who it knows is both tried and tested understanding that this mandate goes well beyond tourism and into unlocking trade and investment opportunities on a win-win basis with the globe as the African Union implements its Agenda 2063, presenting the Africa we Want,” said Mzembi who has been at the helm of the Tourism Ministry in Zimbabwe since 2009.
The current Secretary General of the UN specialised agency charged with the promotion of sustainable, Dr Taleb Rifai paid tribute to the African Union endorsed candidate describing him as a hardworking and shrewd leader whose exquisite leadership skills should never be doubted.
‘I want to Salute Minister Mzembi whose energy and wisdom has transformed Zimbabwe’s tourism and beyond. Zimbabwe through this man has become a dependable partner for the UNWTO. Walter’s zeal for success, wisdom and extraordinary leadership skills were put to fore when Zimbabwe and Zambia successfully hosted the 20th session of the UNWTO General Assembly, which has remained the best ever attended General Assembly”, said Dr Rifai.
Dr Mzembi took the opportunity to present his 10 point plan which will be the cornerstone of his tenure should his bid succeed.
Mzembi’s Ten Point Plan
1. Universality – Aim to achieve Universal State Membership aligned to UN Every country now hosts a tourism economy, making membership imperative (Current UN Membership 192, UNWTO Membership 157). Equally important is to grow Affiliate and Associate Membership to levels commensurate with sectoral growth.
2. Inclusivity – Tourism for all: Campaign for the right of every individual to enjoy barrier free travel and product access around the globe regardless of physical challenges, age, gender, colour or creed.
3. Relevance – To develop a value proposition that meets Member States aspirations beyond the current technical policy functions, giving emphasis to networking and partnerships for tourism resource mobilisation and developmental needs.
4. Responsiveness – Sensitivity to emerging contemporary challenges that include inter-alia; security, terrorism, political conditions, pandemics, epidemics, climate change, human trafficking, child sexual abuse and embracing ICT solutions.
5. Fairness – To promote policies that foster growth with equity, equal treatment and equitable resource allocation to Member States; sign-posting tourism contribution to Global GDP from 10% to 15% during my tenure.
6. Facilitation – Lobby and advocate for intelligent taxation, safe, secure and seamless travel through Open Skies, Open Borders and security sensitive policies.
7. Diplomacy – Leverage on tourism as a tool for sound inter- and intra-state relations, tolerance, citizen engagement and deployment of soft power in the resolution of contemporary challenges to create peace, social harmony and understanding.
8. Integration – To locate tourism in the trade and investment value chain (visit, trade, invest), harnessing its resilience, low hanging fruit and catalytic characteristics.
9. Sustainability – To promote sustainable tourism and green growth which expresses itself in all the SDGs, in particular SDG 8, 12 and 14.
10. Accountability – Member States accountability to each other on the application of travel advisories and peer review, recognising that every tourism economy doubles up as a source and destination market, including acceleration and transformation of the Tourism Global Code of Ethics into a Convention.