Kenya’s tourism minister Najib Balala is the 2009 Africa Tourism Minister of the Year.
Balala emerged top out of seven tourism ministers who had been short-listed for the award during the Africa Tourism Investors Summit and Award Gala held Saturday at the Joachim Chissano Conference Centre in Maputo, Mozambique.
The event was organized by the International Pan-African investment group, Africa
Investor (Ai) in partnership with the Government of Mozambique, the International
World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) the International Finance Corporation (World Bank Group) and NEPAD.
Its objective is to recognize the achievement of individuals, governments, business and organizations who have made an outstanding contribution to the growth of sustainable tourism investment in Africa.
Balala was picked by a panel of five judges chaired by Professor Geoffrey Lipman, Special Adviser of the World Tourism Organization.
Others were Ms. Irene Visser, Tourism Programme Manager at the International Finance Corporation, Mr Trevor Ward, the Managing Director of the W Hospitality Group and Ms Kate Rivett-Carnac of the Development Bank of Southern Africa.
The Minister was recognized for his efforts in leading the tourism recovery programme in Kenya in 2008 and raising Kenya’s tourism profile as a global leader in sustainable tourism.
He was also rewarded for leading the implementation of government policy on promoting sustainable tourism.
Kenya and Gabon were cited as countries that have focused their resources on promoting their countries as eco-friendly tourist destinations.
The tourism investor summit and awards are designed to showcase Africa’s opportunities and achievements to the rest of the world, collectively raise awareness about Africa as a tourist destination and reward groups developing the African tourism industry as a vehicle to drive sustainable economic growth.
The Africa Tourism Minister of the Year Award is the most competitive among 14 categories of awards.
This year, it had entries from African leading ministers including Najib Balala (Kenya), Shamsa Mwangunga (Tanzania), Nandi-Ndaitwah (Namibia), Fernando Sumbana Jr (Mozambique), Mohammed Boussaid (Morocco), Khelil Lajimi (Tunisia), Charles Xavier Luc Duval (Mauritius) and Marthinus Van Schalkwyk of South Africa who was the 2008 winner of the award.
Five other Kenyan organizations were short-listed for various awards but did not win.
They included the Kenya Tourism Board in the category of Tourism Promotion Agency of the Year and the Tourism Trust (TTF) under the Best Initiative in Facilitating SME Tourism Investment.
Other entries were Kenya Airways (Best Airline), Eagle Africa Insurance Brokers (Business Travel Insurer), Ol Malo Eco-Lodge and Trust (Sustainable Tourism Investment) and Nairobi City (Tourism Investor City of the Year).
“My victory and the recognition of seven other tourism entities from Kenya in the award show that Kenya is a major player in tourism development in Africa and the world. The award is an honour for the entire tourism industry in Kenya,” said Balala.