UNWTO’s Twentieth General Assembly “unlike” any other in history


LIVINGSTONE, Zambia (eTN) – This is the best-attended General Assembly in the history of the United Nations World Tourism Organizations (UNWTO), said Taleb Rifai when he addressed the media at the ongoing 20th edition of the Madrid-based organization.

The event is of historic significance not only because it garnered the most attendees, but also because it marked the first time in the history of the UNWTO that two countries, Zambia and Zimbabwe, hosted the General Assembly. Livingstone and Victoria Falls, respectively, have been designated as host cities.

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When asked about the challenges and opportunities about having Zambia and Zimbabwe as co-hosts for the historic event, UNWTO Secretary-General Taleb Rifai had much to say. He said: “When we assemble meetings at UNWTO, we assemble them for a purpose – to send a message from the place, from the continent, and to the people that we are here for them. Having two hosts to a General Assembly is not easy. There are different authorities on both sides, different interests, different capabilities, and different priorities. But, I must say the cooperation between the two countries has been remarkable. We are very much impressed on how the two countries are willing to work together, the amount of goodwill … to make this a success is tremendous.”

He added, however, that “We understand that this is not a big place; this is not a big city compared to facilities and infrastructure. We understand the limitations, but that is precisely why we are here. We think that by coming here, history would have been made here in Africa. The people are excited, the people are happy, the people are smiling, and the people will talk about it for years and years to come. This is very different from holding a meeting in a big city or a developed country, where [this would’ve been] just another event. This is not just another event.”