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Zimbabwe tourism minister Hon. Walter Mzembi endorsed by RETOSA for top UNWTO post

UNWTO Secretary General candidate has a clear frontrunner

Prof. Dr. Wolfgang H. Thome, eTN Africa Correspondent  Jul 08, 2016

Following the earlier endorsement by SADC, the Southern African Development Community, of Dr. Engineer Walter Mzembi, Zimbabwe's Minister for Tourism and Hospitality Industry RETOSA, the Regional Tourism Organization of Southern Africa, has also thrown its support behind Dr. Walter's candidacy to succeed Dr. Taleb Rifai as Secretary General of the UNWTO, when he retires at the end of next year.

Rarely has a campaign for the Secretary Generalship of UNWTO started this early and with such vehemence, wrong footing any other potential candidates even though it is still a long way to the formal election at next year's UNWTO General Assembly in Beijing.

The next step in the campaign will now no doubt be the next summit of the African Union, which is taking place later this month in Kigali, Rwanda, and neither Dr. Walter nor the Zimbabwean government will let this opportunity pass without tying up AU support and getting an endorsement for him.

Other potential candidates from Africa are now more and more unlikely to throw their hat into the ring, especially should the African Union name Dr. Walter as their choice candidate, and as the UNWTO never before had a Secretary General from Africa, this will - despite the expected opposition by certain Western countries against a Zimbabwean candidate - literally be the key to the world tourism pinnacle.

Information received from RETOSA's 7th Ministerial meeting earlier in the week in Botswana's capital Gaborone clearly shows the organization's support. With ministers present from host country Botswana and also from Angola, Mozambique, Lesotho, Namibia, and Zimbabwe, the other member countries of RETOSA were represented by high-ranking officials including permanent/principal secretaries, directors of tourism, and top tourism board representatives.

The Board Meeting of RETOSA is taking place as this article is filed and expected to further discuss on the sidelines what added support Dr. Walter can expect to bolster his candidacy.

Information received includes excerpts of minutes of the ministerial meeting and the relevant items read as follows:

Start quote:

Ministers noted the candidature of Hon. Dr. Engineer Walter Mzembi, Minister of Tourism and Hospitality Industry for the Republic of Zimbabwe, for election as the next Secretary General of the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO). Ministers resolved to support the candidature of Eng. Dr Walter Mzembi, as well as undertake lobbying amongst states outside of the SADC region.

In his response to the endorsement of his nomination, Hon. Dr. Mzembi expressed appreciation to all the SADC Member States for the unparalleled support for his candidature, and undertook to work hard to take the tourism industry at the global and regional level to new heights, building onto the legacy of the current Secretary General of the UNWTO.

Ministers accepted [the invitation] by Zimbabwe for the next meeting of Ministers responsible for Tourism to be held in Zimbabwe in 2017.

End quote

Two added factors will play into the hands of Dr. Walter's candidacy no doubt, one being the presence of the Caribbean Tourism Organization at the RETOSA meeting, taking home the message of an African candidate for the top job at UNWTO, and secondly, and perhaps more important, a recent masterstroke of Zimbabwe, announced during the SANGANAI 2016 tourism trade show in Bulawayo.

It was there that Zimbabwe formally joined PATA, the Pacific Asia Travel Association, as a full member, the first outside the original PATA geographical region and notably the first such member from Africa, beating more fancied candidates for such membership like South Africa, Kenya, or even Rwanda to the finishing line.

PATA will no doubt now have to consider backing a credible and suitable candidate for the UNWTO Secretary General's job from within its own organization, and should Dr. Walter also get endorsed from that part of the world, his election in Beijing next year could almost be a shoe-in.

UNWTO Secretary General candidate has a clear frontrunner

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