Zimbabwe’s tourism is now leading in sectoral growth with 11 percent contribution to Gross Domestic Product, displaying remarkable recovery, says Dr Mzembi, the Minister of Tourism and Hospitality Industry and Hospitality Industry of Zimbabwe, and Southern African Development Community endorsed candidate for the position of UNWTO Secretary General that falls vacant in 2017.
Minister Mzembi said the tourism industry was expected to play a major role in Zimbabwe’s economy, with a vision to have a $5 billion tourism boom from five million arrivals, contributing 15 percent to GDP by 2020.
“So, tourism has been the most significant rapprochement and re-engagement tool for the Republic of Zimbabwe and it is now an acknowledged unifying force and a tool for public diplomacy and the economy has largely been stabilised by its receipts income, securing peace in the process,” he said.
“Anything in a Government that is economically significant is enabled, facilitated and protected. We advanced tourism in Zimbabwe to a point where it is now a recognised economic pillar amongst three other pillars that include agriculture, mining and manufacturing,” said Minister Mzembi.
“In fact, it is cross-subsidising the Zimbabwean economy and GDP contribution now stands at 11 percent. We were able to advance to that point of recognition and it means that the whole Government works for the sector’s advancement. It starts with the security sector guaranteeing peace because peace is a critical success factor,” he said.
Minister Mzembi said Zimbabwe’s major product was peace as “it does not matter how attractive a destination is, if it is situated in a conflict situation it doesn’t sell. Tourism cannot sell conflict.”
He said the re-engagement and rapprochement carried out by the Government had resulted in the growth of the tourism sector. “Going forward, it (tourism sector) is paying the bills for Government functions. Meanwhile, the world has significantly softened its stance towards Zimbabwe, with European Union sanctions partially lifted and there is intense business reconnaissance missions into Zimbabwe and China would attest to this,” said Dr Mzembi.
“When State diplomacy fails, even without guns being fired at times, it can invent conditions equivalent to those of a war zone. We must never allow a situation where after traditional diplomacy fails, it precipitates war before we invoke the inherent diplomatic characteristics of tourism,” he said.
“When people arrive in destinations, they are agents of goodwill. Usually they bring an olive branch, so today’s 1,2 billion world arrivals can easily be turned into peace ambassadors of this world. The expenditure that they generate in destinations creates tourism economies which today stands at $1,4 trillion.”
Minister Mzembi chronicled how after the formation of the Government of National Unity in 2009, he was tasked with reaching out to the country’s traditional tourist source markets which had issued travel advisories against Zimbabwe.
The culmination of the efforts was the regularization of the country’s membership to world tourism bodies, with the ultimate being the country’s joint hosting by Zimbabwe and Zambia, the 20th Session of the General Assembly of the United Nations World Tourism Organization in Victoria Falls in 2013. The versatile Minister, Dr Wlater Mzembi was at the forefront of organizing one of the most successful General Assembly that was confirmed by Dr Taleb Rifai, the current Secretary General of UNWTO.
In the same vein, Dr Mzembi has demonstrated clear leadership of the tourism sector not only in his country, but globally, and he has shown that he has the gravitas to provide leadership of the tourism sector effectively. He is in the race for the UNWTO Secretary General position that falls vacant in 2017, and he has pronounced himself and answered to the cal by several countries for him to lead the tourism body. He has declared his candidature, with support also coming from the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and soon the African Union is likely to endorse him at the forthcoming African Union (AU) Heads of States and Government Summit to be held in July 2016 in Kigali, Rwanda as the AU candidate for the position. A cursory look at his maneuvering appears clearly that he is the most preferred candidate, a man that the world can trust, a man that the international tourism community can support to lead the UNWTO to drive a global agenda and consolidate on the legendary legacy to be left by Dr Taleb Rifai on one of the most dynamic and fast growing economic sectors in the world.