Yesterday, the outspoken Minister of Tourism for Zimbabwe, Hon. Walter Mzembi, addressed the General Assembly of the World Tourism Organization in Chengdu, China.
This is a transcript of his moving presentation:
Excellencies, Colleague Ministers, Ladies and Gentlemen:
Let me congratulate the People’s Republic of China on its grand hostess-ship of the 22nd GA of the UNWTO and excellent service and hospitality rendered to our delegations, and of course it’s assumption of the Presidency of the 22nd session.
I know the painstaking and elaborate work and resources invested in such projects, having been host myself for the 20th Session for which I thank you for your support then.
Let me proceed to note the inauguration of the World Tourism Alliance last night, an inevitable happening given your scale and projected leadership as an international source market and unparalleled network of alliances. It’s only natural that you would enter this space of non-governmental and business organization of global tourism, perhaps overdue. We pray the long-term objectives are to complement gaps identified especially in global funding and tourism development clearly missing in our current UNWTO. I hope this will strengthen UNWTO going forward and not duplicate what it is already doing or what other organizations are ceased with already as some of your founding articles may seem to suggest.
And still on this subject I would also plead for inclusivity, especially of the emerging economies, there is nothing global of course without Africa, if you miss Africa you have missed the world, or at least it’s 1.2-billion-people market, and I hope you can hastily include those missing at the very beginning in your structures to inspire confidence and improve the global appeal of the organization.
Zimbabwe is captured in the New York Times of the January 2015 edition as “a once avoided now a must visit destination ”
Rated at no 13, together with Rwanda at no 14 as Africa ‘s top attractions in the Condé Naste Magazine, top 17 destinations for 2017, this country which hosts and shares the majestic Victoria Falls with Zambia, is one of the Natural Wonders of the World. Our chief hospitality product is peace, safety and security.
Zimbabwe makes the claim to a 33-year tourist safety record, with not a single tourist life lost to conflict or war nor insecurity since 1983!
Today Zimbabwe is a $1 billion tourist economy set to grow to a $3 billion economy by year 2020, employs over 300,000 people directly and indirectly.
The Country shares seven trans-frontier conservation boundary areas developed to the scale of the ecosystem, with neighbors, South Africa, Mozambique, Zambia, Botswana, Namibia, and Angola, and has sound biodiversity policies which host a flourishing wildlife population and a diverse flora in its ecosystems.
Beyond its traditional markets in Europe Zimbabwe has developed strong bilateral relations with other parts of the world and has a BRICS growth strategy anchored by China whom it has granted a visa on arrival dispensation. Zimbabwe is largely an open destination with most countries in the world enjoying this visa on arrival preference.
How does one access Zimbabwe from China? You can be connected from OR Tambo, Johannesburg or Cape Town to any destination in Zimbabwe, Harare and VF included in just over an hour, 15 flights a day, or via Dubai, a direct flight of 8hours to Harare or VF.
The World Climate Agency at some stage rated Zimbabwe as host of the best climate on the globe. No natural Disasters except incessant droughts now mitigated by irrigation development. Google Zimbabwe at your own leisure to understand why Zimbabwe has been such a resilient product notwithstanding the adversity it suffered at some stage. We are the most endowed country in mineral wealth. As a colonial state, we were founded by the Rudd Concession because of the attraction of our rich natural resources and fertile soils. Ask the Chinese here they will confirm how they turned our adversity into an opportunity for themselves. Don’t be left out in this modern-day Eldorado to my country.
1) We reaffirm our thrust on finding a sustainable solution to securing peace for Tourism and its facilitation by the Security Cluster, and urge the Secretariat to facilitate more relevant engagements and interfaces for this sector to make its case. Continuing to meet alone and reciting our challenges will not resolve this challenge
2) We urge practical operationalization of the SDGs. As an example, Africa will need 660 billion euro a year to operationalize the SDGs, for the next coming years until 2030, in order to create 20million jobs a year to deal with illegal migration into Europe and other parts of the world, yet our ODA support is just 60billion Euro a year. How do we cover this gap? We have the biodiversity product, people, poor people, who are your greatest prospect and asset to a future source market if we develop a middle class out of them, turn them into tourists not migrants. A generation ago there was no tourist from China, no one wanted to receive you, today we outdo each other to receive you, with some countries giving you up to 10-year multiple entry visas, totally inconceivable a few years ago, WHY, because out of your poor, emerged a middle class of 400million people, out of which 128m today constitute the world ‘s largest source market. 4 billion trips are done internally, serious economic kinetics at play. To keep our people engaged at home we therefore need to discuss serious investment in the tourism sector in Africa and other developing economies to help in the elimination of joblessness, in itself a threat to security, because idle minds concoct terrorism, we have to give youthful lives a meaning to mitigate this major challenge.
So. lip service to resolutions on SDGs that does not translate into practical solutions will make us irrelevant in Cabinet tables where we seek accommodation. Let’s demonstrate Tourism’s greater relevance going forward.
Finally, I want to thank you for the honor to champion reform and modernization with regards to elective issues around the Secretary General post. It is this post that gathers us every two years in this manner, to listen principally to this person who administers the organization between elective congresses and keeps us relevant to the world, even the best of white papers executed by an inappropriate choice, our collective choice can become for lack of a better expression a black paper. So, this is going to be the best decision of the 106th EC, notwithstanding the acrimony that gave birth to it yesterday, and a lasting legacy of the outgoing SG, I wish it had come sooner though. I pushed it not out of self-interest, NO, but because it was the best thing to do for our organization, someone had to carry the Cross and burden, because that is what leadership is all about. I opted to champion and magnify the cause because I admire the good work Taleb has done in the last decade. I know it, because I have been around long enough, almost a decade nearly matching your service as SG. Genuine friendship is built on honest feedback, no matter how nasty it may appear to those who may be unable to comprehend issues at the time. Equally, China can claim some credit, too, being a world case study and Champion of Reform itself, so we have no choice in this regard than to embrace change. In conclusion, no one appreciates Taleb more than Zimbabwe for standing by my country at its worst and bringing the GA to Zimbabwe, the rest is history. His name is indelibly captured in the memories of our people. I thank you, and God bless you all.
All photos © attreo studio 2017 CDR Photography