By Henry D Gombya in Madrid, Spain
Africa’s choice for the United Nations World Tourism Organisation post of Secretary General has narrowly lost to an East European country. In a vote taken here today, Dr Walter Mzembi, Zimbabwe’s Minister of Tourism, won the first round of votes when he received 11 votes compared to eight by Georgia’s ambassador to Spain and his country’s permanent representative to the UNWTO, 40-year old Zurab Pololikashvili.
In the second round, Mr Pololikashvili won by 18 votes, beating Dr Mzembi by three votes after he came out with 15. After the votes, there were cries that the rest of the world had conspired against Africa’s choice for UNWTO Secretary General. In his last submission to the 105th meeting held here to choice the candidate that will go to Shangdu, China where the new UNWTO Secretary General will be inaugurated, Dr Mzembi had outlined his plan to engage in a plan to revamp tourism in Africa. The whole of the African country had been eagerly waiting to see whether the rest of the world would recognise the continent’s contribution to world tourism. With a variety of wild animals still roaming the African continent, Africa is and remains quite attractive to tourists, especially those from the West who it appears have rejected the idea for an African to lead the world tourism organisation.
After years of negative reports by the western press regarding Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe, Mzembi, 53, managed to convince the UNWTO to allow Zimbabwe to co-host the UNWTO conference with Zimbabwe. The move provided support for the embattled Zimbabwean leader and with the guidance of the youthful minister, the country has seen an increase in tourists who have continued to flock to Zimbabwe, a country now considered quite safe as a tourist destination.
Speaking to The London Evening Post early this year here in Madrid, Dr Mzembi pledged that one of the many ideas he has if elected as UNWTO Secretary General was to create an atmosphere whereby Africans would start coming to Western countries as tourists and not as asylum seekers. His hosting of the UNWTO conference in Victoria Falls earned him great praise from President Mugabe who called him one of his best ministers and one that had put Zimbabwe back on the international map.
While the meeting here has been of great importance to the tourist industry, with many Spanish people spending millions visiting other countries, not many of the people we have come in touch with here have any idea what the words UNWTO mean. Nor are they aware that their capital has been the venue for a very important decision on who goes to Shangdu in September to be elected UNWTO Secretary General.