USA joining UNWTO: One State at a time?

“On World Tourism I am full to the brim with ideas,” Dr. Walter Mzembi tells eTN. Perhaps this is the solution for the largest world tourism superpower, the United States to officially join the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO). The solution may be 50 new members to the UNWTO, one State at a time?

This out of the box approach was discussed with U.S. Ambassador Harry K. Thomas, Jr and Dr. Walter Mzembi, outspoken candidate for the next Secretary General of the UNWTO in 2017.

The United States Ambassador to Zimbabwe Harry K. Thomas, Jr. paid a Courtney call to the Zimbabwe minister of tourism Dr. Walter Mzembi on Thursday last week.

Amb1The minister had a wide ranging discussions with the American ambassador but the key message was on Universal Membership of the UNWTO. Currently the United States is not a member of the United Nations World Tourism Organization.

Hon. Mzembi explained to the eTurboNews (eTN) publisher Juergen T Steinmetz in a phone interview on Sunday.

“The current world situation requires an inclusive approach in interrogating contemporary challenges and prescribing solutions, especially in Tourism and Security, Migration, Natural Disasters.”

“My point in the discussion with the Hon. Ambassador was that in the new world order there is no country that does not host a tourism economy, and every country is now either a source market or destination or both.

Universal membership to the UNWTO aligned to UN’s 192 Member States will be on the top of my agenda if I was elected to become the next Secretary General of the UNWTO in 2017.”

Min3“Recruitment will be done on the back of a transformational agenda that places a new value proposition on the table to those that opted out on why they should belong. Ahead of UN 2017, IYSTD and running concurrently with my campaign for secretary general this shall be the key thrust. Recruitment and is not a secretariat function per se. Therefore I envisage a ministerial structure, that will be assigned this task going forward.”

For many years arguments from Washington were in opposition to joining UNWTO. The argument against it is money. “Paying high membership fees for just one voice. eTN was told at a WTM dinner by a senior government officials who didn’t want to be named:”Why should the United States pay top membership fees based on population and economic output, but only has one voice equal to the voice of a very small country like San Marino or Andorra?


eTN asked Dr.Mzembi about this. His response was surprising.

Dr. Mzembi: “The ambassador and I discussed the State Membership approach, I already have States like Illinois who are open to such proposals. I will definitely bring it up in Atlanta, but it needs a reformist approach within the UNWTO organization and one has to be looking at class of membership, voting rights etc.”

Dr. Mzembi will be coming to the United States to speak at the 2016 African Diaspora World Tourism Awards in Atlanta, Ga. on August 27th. This is an historical visit to the United States and very significant for the ADWT-Awards event.

The minister added: “Without this out of the box thinking UNWTO will remain the obscure technical organization that it has been for a while.It needs fresh thinking and I am full to the brim with ideas.”

The first United States Ambassador to Zimbabwe was appointed on May 23, 1980, after the Republic of Zimbabwe came into being to replace the previous white-minority government of Rhodesia, and its successor Zimbabwe-Rhodesia (1979–1980).

The Republic of Zimbabwe came into being on April 18, 1980. The United States immediately recognized the new nation and moved to establish diplomatic relations. An embassy in Harare was established on April 18, 1980, the independence day for Zimbabwe. Jeffrey Davidow was appointed as chargé d’affaires ad interim pending the appointment of an ambassador. The first ambassador, Robert V. Keeley, was appointed one month later on May 23, 1980.

The current U.S. ambassador to Zimbabwe is Harry K. Thomas, Jr., who was sworn in on December 8, 2015

To date, Dr. Mzembi is the longest serving tourism minister in UNWTO, currently serving as chair for the United Nation Commission on Africa.

He is credited with institutionalizing tourism in the Africa Union which had long overlooked tourism as a critical factor in economic and social cohesion and development. He has also been a member of Parliament for the Masvingo South Constituency since 2004 and UNWTO’s Commission for Africa Chairperson from 2013 to date.

His candidacy for the UNWTO top post was recently endorsed by the African Union.