Sunday, August 25, 2013

Zimbabwe Lands Top UNWTO Post

Zim lands top UNWTO post

Sunday, 25 August 2013 00:00
Prince Mushawevato in Victoria Falls
Zimbabwe Sunday Mail

Zimbabwe has landed the chairmanship of the Commission for Africa — an arm of the United Nations World Tourism Organisation — after being unanimously elected by members of the body. In recent weeks, Egypt and Mali were eyeing the position, but dropped the interest due to the overwhelming support Zimbabwe got from members of the body.
In an interview here yesterday, outgoing Tourism and Hospitality Industry Minister Engineer Walter Mzembi said: “Zimbabwe’s candidature was proposed by Tunisia and seconded by Algeria and it was then supported by virtually every African country. They spoke so loudly in support of Zimbabwe’s candidature.

“The chairman asked if there was any country which was interested in taking the chair and there was none. So, by virtue we landed the chairmanship.”

Meanwhile, President Mugabe and his Zambian counterpart, President Michael Sata, are expected to officially open the 20th Session of the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) General Assembly here today.

Zimbabwe and Zambia, which are co-hosting the general assembly that kicked off last Friday, have already made history after a record 150 countries out of the 155 permanent member states registered to participate.

The giant event is also being held in Southern Africa for the first time since the inception of the UNWTO in 1975.

It brings together more than 1 200 delegates, among them ministers of tourism, captains of industry, international tourist wholesalers and businesspeople from 186 countries.

Eng Mzembi said the official opening by the two co-hosting presidents would set the ball rolling for the highly esteemed mega event. “We expect President Mugabe and his Zambian counterpart, President Sata, to officially open the general assembly tomorrow (today).

“This will then mark the beginning of serious business for the general assembly that we have tailored to be a truly African event,” he said.

Already, the UNWTO secretary-general, Mr Taleb Rifai, has described the event as a success, judging from the number of countries that have responded.

By yesterday, out of the 155 permanent member states, 150 had sent delegates while almost all the observer states had also dispatched delegates, bringing the number of countries participating to 181.

A few others were expected to arrive today.
According to Mr Rifai, the number of countries that registered for the general assembly has broken attendance records in terms of participants. UNWTO statistics indicate that the figure captures the highest number of countries to attend the general assembly in the history that dates back to 1975.

Minister Mzembi said: “The success of any general assembly is measured by the response by delegate member countries.
“And the reaction so far is 147 out of the 155 member states. But I have no doubt we will have other people walking in to do on-side registration and accreditation for this general assembly.”

Zimbabwe and Zambia share the Victoria Falls and both sides exploded into life as delegates, led by Mr Rifai, started arriving on Thursday last week.

The UNWTO executive council has 155 members and 31 other observer states to give a total of 186 members.
The only other African country to have hosted the general assembly is Senegal in 2007. It will take Zimbabwe more than 360 years to host again the bi-annual event held on an equal rotational basis among member states. The session runs until August 29 in Victoria Falls and Livingstone, respectively.

Zimbabwe and Zambia won the bid to co-host the event two years ago ahead of countries like Russia, Jordan and Qatar.
Other countries that have hosted the general assembly include Italy, India, Bulgaria, France, Spain, Argentina, Indonesia, Turkey, Chile, Japan, China and Colombia.

The week-long event is expected to help turn the decade-long negative Western publicity against Zimbabwe.

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