By Isdore Guvamombe
ZIMBABWE has emerged the most powerful and influential country in the United Nations World Tourism Organisation after landing three crucial positions at the ongoing 20th session of the UNWTO general assembly here. Zimbabwe has been unanimously voted to the chairmanship of the UNWTO African Commission and was elected into the highest decision-making body, the Executive Council, and also took over the co-presidency of the organisation with Zambia. The UNWTO is divided into commissions on the basis of geographical locations with each continent designated as a commission, meaning Zimbabwe has been elected to the helm of Africa.
The Executive Council is the highest decision-making body, the equivalent of the Zanu-PF Politburo, and Zimbabwe retained its position in the council where the UNWTO is run.
By virtue of co-hosting the 20th session of the UNWTO general assembly, Zimbabwe and Zambia took over the presidency of the organisation.
UNWTO secretary-general Mr Taleb Rifai said Zimbabwe and Zambia should use their new status to tap into the international tourist arrivals and transform their successful hosting and positions gained to promote, market and develop tourism not only for themselves but for the world.
“It is now up to each country to use its position, its influence and situation after successfully hosting the most attended general assembly in our history.
“I have worked extremely well with my good friend Walter Mzembi (outgoing Minister of Tourism and Hospitality Industry) and my other good friend Sylvia Masebo (Minister of Tourism and Culture in Zambia).
“Many journalists are asking about why the US, Canada and Britain are not members of UNWTO and they say why don’t we talk to them, but we also say to you journalists, why don’t you talk to them to join us, maybe you should talk to them yourselves,” he said.
Outgoing Tourism and Hospitality Industry Minister Walter Mzembi said Zimbabwe should use its position to leverage with the events in the world tourism organisation. “I am very elated. We have won the chairmanship of the African Commission or CAF as we call it. We were proposed by Tunisia and seconded by Algeria. The rest approved one by one so at the end there was no election. It was a unanimous decision. Africa is confident of us. They showed that.
“We are also taking over the co-presidency of the UNWTO and we have also retained our most important seat in the executive council. Remember we were elected into the executive council four years ago and we were soon to use that influence to win the bid to host with Zambia this mega event,” he said.
Minister Mzembi said Zimbabwe would use its influence to steer tourism promotion, marketing and sustainable development, in general and to reduce the gap between negative perceptions of Zimbabwe as a tourist destination and reality on the ground that it is an attractive and safe tourist destination.
“Going forward we need to use our acquired important and influential status to steer sustainable tourism development not only in our country but in Africa and beyond. Back home we need to deal with issues of bad perception. In terms of natural beauty and attractiveness we are ranked number 21, but in terms of perception, we are badly ranked number 134 out of 135. It is that gap that we want to use our acquired status to close or reduce,” he said.