Launch of the bid by The Hon Dr Walter Mzembi for the post of Secretary General of the UNWTO

 Walter Mzembi - Africas candidatate for the post of UNWTO Secretary General and Mrs Barbara M Perez Mzembi - Launch event -
Walter Mzembi – Africas candidatate for the post of UNWTO Secretary General and Mrs Barbara M Perez Mzembi – Launch event –

The intensifying focus on migration and the urgent need to find practical solutions to an increasingly complex and sensitive issue, emerged very strongly during my recent campaign visits to European capitals. I have submitted that subject to some pretty exhaustive think-tanking and it seems clear to me that some form of “Marshall Plan” is required to stem the flow of African migrants across the Mediterranean: a plan which focuses on enhanced and targeted investment in tourism and tourism-related enterprises, and which creates employment opportunities across the continent so that, in future, Africa gives Europe tourists, not migrants.

Equally, the same nagging question of migration in the Americas, and within Europe itself, cannot find answers in the building of walls, literal or figurative, or in reversing the gains of openness. Part of the answer, certainly, lies in recognizing and proactively promoting tourism as an effective vehicle for job-creation and economic empowerment. The kind of vocations that migrants respond to in their host countries are to be found in the tourism sector – blue-collar jobs in most cases. With such enhanced and targeted investment, such employment can be created in their home countries.

Another case in point is the scarcely-researched behaviour of currencies, and how, as a key critical success factor, it has affected the performance of global tourism. The bullish performance of the US dollar and the Japanese Yen against weaker currencies, for example, not to mention the Euro, whose future is synonymous with tourism-performance. These, then, are some of the areas on which, going forward, an evolving and reforming UNWTO should be providing more guidance.

Similarly, greater inter-agency cooperation within the UN family will serve to enhance execution agency relationships which, in turn, will generate new and transformative workloads for the UNWTO. Because of the cross-cutting nature of tourism – as evidenced by its direct specification in SDG’s 8,12 and 14 and its relevance to all 17 Development Goals, I will strive for greater day-to-day brand visibility of the tourism pillar within the UN System and within the collective global mindset. 2017, as the International Year on Sustainable Tourism for Development is just the beginning. Sustainability is the current buzz word, but it comes with developmental aspirations presently driving an unrealistic and, for now, unrealisable level of expectation amongst member states.

A renewed and reformed UNWTO must be more proactive in collaborating with other, better-resourced arms of the UN family, to ensure that funds earmarked for development projects across various sectors include tourism-related projects as well. This is not to imply that the UNWTO should transform itself into a development agency; merely that it must do more to insinuate itself and the sector it represents more visibly and more effectively in the practical allocation of global developmental funding. At the very least, UNWTO endorsement of country-specific projects should enhance the bankability of those projects and their eligibility for funding – from whatever source.

Going forward to 2030, we must be able to look back at country-inspired, UNWTO-endorsed legacy projects of significant scale and repute, especially in the preferred grant, donor and multilateral funding areas of green growth and sustainable energy supply – solar being a case in point. Still on the issue of finance, it is my intention to initiate a Global Tourism Fund from which Member States shall derive substantive value. Tourism and Travel are inordinately taxed by national governments, and yet the sector benefits the least from the significant revenue it generates. There simply has to be some form of mechanism to claw back even a little more of that revenue and then leverage against that seed capital to establish an effective Fund. On the basis of the 1.2 billion travellers logged in 2015, just a single dollar per traveller passed back, could inject US$1.2 billion of ‘seed capital’ into such a Fund.

The Case for Growing the Tourism Business

Every country today boasts of a tourism economy. Apart from reinforcing the Golden Book on Tourism concept, my tenure will include deep political conversation with Member States on creating viable national structures that can sustainably serve, enable and facilitate the development of tourism. Optimum fiscal appropriations to the Tourism and Travel Ministries at country level will be strongly advocated to enable those structures to perform.

Also included will be advocating for more open but secure and seamless travel, coupled with incentivized intelligent taxation of the sector. I shall reassert one of the core responsibilities of this intergovernmental agency – that is the conception and mainstreaming of policies that will enable the Tourism Industry to grow, contributing at least 15 per cent to global GDP during my tenure. This to be achieved by directing favourable capital formation, and investment and export incentives aligned to SDG aspirations. Input will be sought and leveraged from existing and future partnerships and collaboration with relevant industry associations and affiliate organisations.

To induce a greater sense of inclusivity, collective and binding decision making, it is my intention to reach out to those UN member states which, today, remain outside the UNWTO. Apart from further enhancing the universal character of our organisation, success in this endeavour will also strengthen the capacity of the UNWTO to more effectively and more comprehensively address contemporary challenges and threats to our sector – terrorism and insecurity coming at the very top of that list. Incorporated in the broad definition of “insecurities”, and requiring timeous and sustainable responses and adaptation will be natural disasters, climate change, biodiversity terrorism, in particular, wildlife poaching – marine and terrestrial.

Whist on the sensitive area of terrorism targeting tourism, I shall give maximum attention to mobilizing governments to protect tourism against this scourge through greater and enhanced security collaboration, intelligence gathering and sharing , standardization and certification of safety procedures, post-crisis management and capacity building of Member States alertness and response preparedness . Equally, I shall leverage the soft power characteristics of tourism to complement the deployment of hard power by governments, by further unleashing the potential of people-to-people diplomacy inherent in travel and tourism, whose kinetic force can never be defeated by terror.

The 1.8 billion travellers forecast by 2030, are all potentially peace ambassadors, and travel will be used to secure peace through greater social interaction, tolerance and cultural understanding. It is super-critical to drive the Organization towards a Convention on Ethics, to induce peer review, fair, moral, just practice and censure, the issue of travel advisories, child sexual abuse and responsible tourism being most topical. Again, only a universal-in-character Organization can achieve that.

Finally, I do not seek your support out of any sense of entitlement based primarily on Africa’s somewhat miniscule presence within global tourism. It is also the goal of driving growth with equity for all regions that prompted my decision to run for office. Tourism is a poverty-ending tool, a low hanging fruit and one that answers job creation – witness the 288 million already employed within the global industry. It is quite logical to link the buoyant performance and market share of Europe, the Americas, and the Middle East to the footprint and legacy of the men who have been privileged to shape not just global tourism agendas but to bring intimacy and understanding of its significance to their respective regions.

My candidature brings with it a tried and tested craft competence, deep-seated knowledge and hard-earned experience. The wisdom and maturity born of that experience complete the set of imperatives necessary for the sound management of our Organisation. I sincerely believe I have been trained and mentored on these core imperatives by way of association, engagement and interaction with the many expert practitioners I have met along my lengthy journey.

With humility and respect, I have willed myself to learn from their example. The personal journey I have made – some of which I have shared with you this evening – and the challenges I have faced, presiding over the development of tourism in Zimbabwe and, as CAF Chairperson, in Africa more broadly, have prepared and armed me well to take up and to successfully deliver in the role of Secretary General. For the sake of our Organisation and for the future development of global tourism, may the very best candidate prevail.

The Ten Point Plan and Conclusion

In summary, allow me to itemize and summarise the ten points against which I make my case to be elected as the Secretary General of the UNWTO. Those who would wish for more detail are invited to visit my website at

1. Universality – Aim to achieve Universal State Membership aligned to UN Membership. 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 per cent to 15 per cent 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.
Excellences, ladies and gentlemen, I have put forward my case and I hope and believe that you share my vision for a progressive and expanding UNWTO.

I thank you for listening to me and I count on your support to become the next Secretary General of the UNWTO.
May God bless you all.

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