via Brand Zimbabwe flag flying - SundayMail
The outgoing Minister of Tourism and Hospitality Industry, Engineer Walter Mzembi, has said “Brand Zimbabwe is flying” after the just-ended 20th session of the United Nations World Tourism Organisation that the country co-hosted with Zambia.
He said Zimbabwe emerged victorious after it secured the presidency of the 20th session of the assembly and was unanimously elected to chair the body’s Commission for Africa.
In an interview with The Sunday Mail yesterday, Eng Mzembi said: “Our take home from the 20th session of the UNWTO is our leadership of the global tourism sector.
We emerged out of this historic event capped with two critical positions on the leadership of the sector. First is the 20th session presidency of the UNWTO assembly which we shall carry forward to the 21st session when we shall hand over the presidency by acclamation to Colombia. We are going to share this presidency with Zambia, our co-host.
“We were asked to assist Colombia on their preparations for the 21st session, just like Korea was with us until the beginning of our session on the 24th of August when they surrendered the presidency.
“The second position which I think perhaps is the most important one is the chairmanship of the Commission for Africa which was bestowed on Zimbabwe. This was an elective position and what was interesting was that it was moved by Tunisia and seconded by Algeria. All countries supported Zimbabwe’s candidature; we were unanimously elected.”
He said Zimbabwe would soon be offered many positions of leadership in several African bodies after showing, through President Mugabe’s victory in the July 31 elections, that “we can fight an African fight and win.”
“Speaking to Southern Africa, they really like Zimbabwe’s strong stance on leadership issues which they see through the person of President Mugabe. Our general election was monitored by many African countries who were watching this theatre between western imperialism and Pan-Africanism represented by Zimbabwe.
“When Zanu-PF came out with the two-thirds majority, many countries came forward to congratulate Zimbabwe because what had won was Pan-Africanism against western imperialism.
That victory is now cascading down to other sub-sectors like tourism. You will see us now going into the season of leadership. You will see us being offered leadership positions in other sectors because we have demonstrated through President Mugabe that we can fight — and fight for the African cause.
“Also our support for secretary-general re-election in Serbia two months ago at the 95th executive council was upheld by the general assembly.
“The question going forward now which is doing the rounds in Africa is when are we sponsoring the next African secretary-general for the UNWTO as much as that question is now being asked as to when we are going to take leadership of other specialised arms of the UN as Africans?
“As Africans we don’t have much presence in these UN bodies and we don’t seem to have a strategy to sponsor leadership of these specialised agencies yet they are the highest policy organs of the UN.
“There is debate raging on now to say, when will it be our time? But overall, I am happy to tell you that Brand Zimbabwe is flying high after the UNWTO,” said Eng Mzembi.
He said the UNWTO also gave the President an opportunity to charm the international community with his well-received opening and closing addresses.
“The other aspect was the engagement of President Mugabe with the global audience. In his opening and closing remarks the President was able to explain issues around Zimbabwe, around himself, the demystification of ‘Brand Mugabe’ within the context of ‘Brand Zimbabwe’.
“The international community was able to experience his charming side, his intelligent side, in a manner that they had not experienced. Many of them among the delegates were clapping continuously throughout the President’s speech,” he said.
Eng Mzembi said President Mugabe and President Michael Sata had clearly articulated their positions regarding open borders, open skies, the need for intra-Africa trade to increase, the need to unite around the African brand to the extent where there were declarations around the United States of Africa.
He, however said: “The danger comes when you ask us ministers to interpret that vision.
“It gets worse when the bureaucrats are roped in because we then complicate the vision to the point where I can guarantee you now that if you go back to Victoria Falls on Monday, the borders will be closed between Zimbabwe and Zambia. They will be back in their bureaucratic turfs and yet the presidents were very clear that let this be the rule rather than the exception.”
Eng Mzembi said Zimbabwe had really managed to brand itself globally but added that the UNWTO had exposed a few challenges that the country should address.
“We achieved the goal of global branding. You measure that in the turnout of countries that attended the assembly. As you heard by the secretary-general himself, this is the best attended assembly ever in history of UNWTO dating back to 1975.
“About 120 countries, 700 bona fide participants, 900 media and affiliate organisations attended. I am talking about real players in the tourism sector who turned up to contribute. Most of them are still in Victoria Falls enjoying themselves including the secretary-general who is living tomorrow (today) with his entire team. This includes a technical visit to Great Zimbabwe by about 55 members who had come for the assembly. So we secured our endorsement.
“What is left is for us to look at ourselves going forward. A lot of gaps were exposed by this general assembly. We need to attend to our infrastructure — fix issues about Victoria Falls airport and other airports around the country. I am happy the Victoria Falls airport issue is being attended to through the facility to upgrade the airport.
“The other area we need to attend to — if we are going to do conferencing going forward — is the area of protocol. We need to fix this issue just by our people, self-regulating themselves, knowing where they fit and where they don’t fit.
“We also need to improve on our services. Our hotels did very well, they did a spending job, but they can’t respond to a 24-hour-open call. That is what we need to fix.
“The other challenge we need to fix is entertainment. This is very limited and there are very few entertainment options in Victoria Falls.
“Visitors need entertainment after watching the Falls. This is where the idea about Zimbabwe’s own Disneyland came from.
“Many people think I am dreaming, but essentially what I am saying is you can’t attract youthful visitors to the Victoria Falls beyond one day.
“I am being very realistic because for this to happen we are not going to use our money. What Government is contributing is 1 200 hectares of land and maybe ensure that all services are available.
This project should be packaged and that’s why we brought in the Zimbabwe Institution of Engineers and their Zambian counterparts, we invited the Engineering Council of Zimbabwe and these bodies went on to invite regional civil engineers to workshop around an ultra-modern Victoria Falls.
“We are waiting to get feedback from that workshop, but going forward we will also invite our local architects to dream again around the various concepts that can be put together.
“This master planning is also missing in other resorts around the country. If you look at Victoria Falls, it could pass just like any other growth point. There is nothing other than the Falls and the few recreational activities.
“This place we are designating for is about 20km from Victoria Falls near the airport. It’s no-man’s land. It’s State land — no animals and was given to us for exactly this purpose. We won’t be destroying or interfering with any environment at all,” Eng Mzembi explained.