UNWTO: The 10 Point Renewal and Reform Agenda

In Madrid today at his launch for the bid  for the post of Secretary General, the Hon. Dr. Walter Mzembi explained in front of a large audience turnout his renewal and reform agenda he would propose as the new leader of the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO).

He said:

In a very real sense, my candidature – Africa’s candidature – is premised on a commitment to bring about renewal and reform of our organization. It challenges, therefore, a long tradition of bureaucratic succession.

Whilst continuity certainly provides a sense of stability it does not necessarily unlock growth nor does it bring new thinking or fresh ideas. Nor does it provide adequate impetus for the renewal and reform now required.

This is a Member-States- subscribed organisation which should see more countries joining its ranks rather than opting-out. Such membership growth will only come out of dynamic value propositions and an effective response to members’ aspirations and challenges.

Inward-looking organisations are candidates for corporate-incest which can deter rather than attract membership.

Equally we must disabuse the notion of an Organisation patronized by a few States, or others overloaded with key deployments. We should strive for equity all the time for the sake of inclusivity and, ultimately, for the integrity of the UNWTO.

We should even envisage a future that reviews voting rights in order to attract a fresh perspective and interest into the Organisation. This approach requires change agents, and even our host, Spain, I am sure, has an interest in seeing this Organisation transform into a bigger, more representative church and a more recognised brand- leader within the UN family .

As a candidate, I have applied my mind to this and have even engaged Federal States like the USA, Australia, Canada and the UK, amongst others, with varying degrees of interest.

We want them back inside our Organisation, but we must be creative in answering their expectations. If I am given an opportunity to lead the UNWTO, I am confident that, having started the dialogue, I will be better positioned to bring those discussions to a successful conclusion.

Once again I make my case as a candidate for growth and unity. Having been invited to attend all recent Regional Commission meetings – for which let me thank the Secretariat and, of course, Secretary General Rifai – and with the benefit of an outside – inside view arising out of extensive traveling and participation in Member countries programs over the last eight years, I believe I now have a comprehensive appreciation of the strengths, threats , weaknesses and aspirations of each geopolitical block.

That appreciation has come from personal, direct engagement – not from a desk-top study.

This is why you will find my transformation agenda includes seeking to capacitate Regional Commissions, as implementation, monitoring, supervisory and evaluation agencies of decisions taken by the Executive Council and General Assemblies.

This devolution agenda will be tabled during my tenure attendant with innovative sources of funding that will resource Regional Commissions without placing any additional financial burden on member states by way of increased subscriptions, premiums or levies. We simply have to be more creative and more pro-active in generating funds to render UNWTO more meaningful, in practical terms , to its membership and in responding, again practically, to their expectations.

We have to take the Organisation to the people. Regions currently operate in silos and the future should see better interaction and collaboration reflecting enhanced source market and destination relationships. I am challenging member states to embrace the development of a growth strategy that is both inclusive and progressive, and, again, I appeal to you to support me so that, from tourism, we may realise greater productivity and wealth for all nations.

The high global rate of attrition and turn-over of tourism ministers is well-known and even acknowledged. It deprives global tourism of a much needed core-continuity with informed and deep-rooted capacity for reflection, to envision and to develop coherent strategies to address the changing and ever-more complex challenges confronting our industry.

To some extent, the Executive Council and, behind it, the Secretariat, partially fulfill this role. But, in my view, more is needed.

A lean and efficient Secretariat, outsourcing a significant part of its work to the industry and academic-related think tanks, in collaboration with industry associations, will be able to place before the Executive Council much more meaningful, better-researched and more practical agendas for their consideration.

By 2020, for example, China will emerge as the single largest source market in the world, generating an estimated 600 million outbound travellers. Study groups on China for each Region will be inaugurated to plan for this phenomenon. The same applies to other major emerging markets such as India, Russia and Brazil.

The intensifying focus on migration and the urgent need to find practical solutions to an increasingly complex and sensitive issue emerged very strongly during my recent campaign visits to European capitals. I have submitted that subject to some pretty exhaustive thinktanking and it seems clear to me that some form of “Marshall Plan” is required in order to stem the flow of African migrants across the Meditteranean : a Plan which focuses on enhanced and targeted investment in tourism and tourism-related enterprises; and which creates employment opportunities across the continent so that, in future, Africa gives Europe tourists, not migrants.

Equally the same nagging question of migration in the Americas, and within Europe itself, cannot find answers in the building of walls, literal or figurative, or in reversing the gains of openness. Part of the answer, certainly, lies in recognizing and proactively promoting tourism as an effective vehicle for job-creation and economic empowerment.

The kind of vocations that migrants respond to in their host countries are to be found in the tourism sector – blue-collar jobs in the majority of cases. With such enhanced and targeted investment, such employment can be created in their home countries.

Another case in point is the scarcely-researched behaviour of currencies, and how, as a key critical success factor, it has affected the performance of global tourism. The bullish performance of the US dollar and the Japanese Yen against weaker currencies, for example: not to mention the Euro, whose future is synonymous with tourism-performance.

These, then, are some of the areas on which, going forward, an evolving and reforming UNWTO should be providing more guidance.

Similarly, greater inter-agency cooperation within the UN family will serve to enhance execution agency relationships which, in turn, will generate new and transformative workloads for the UNWTO.

Because of the cross-cutting nature of Tourism – as evidenced by its direct specification in SDG’s 8,12 and 14 and its relevance to all 17 Development Goals, I will strive for greater day-to-day brand visibility of the tourism pillar within the UN System and within the collective global mindset.

2017, as the International Year on Sustainable Tourism for Development is just the beginning.

Sustainability is the current buzz word, but it comes with developmental aspirations presently driving an unrealistic and, for now, unrealisable level of expectation amongst Members States.

A renewed and reformed UNWTO must be more proactive in collaborating with other, better-resourced arms of the UN family to ensure that funds earmarked for development projects across various sectors include tourism-related projects as well. This is not to imply that the UNWTO should transform itself into a development agency – merely that it must do more to insinúate itself and the sector it represents more visibly and more effectively in the practical allocation of global developmental funding. At the very least, UNWTOendorsement of country-specific projects should enhance the bankability of those projects and their eligibility for funding – from whatever source.

Going forward to 2030, we must be able to look back at country-inspired, UNWTO-endorsed legacy projects of significant scale and repute, especially in the preferred grant, donor and multilateral funding areas of green growth and sustainable energy supply – solar being a case in point.

Still on the issue of finance : it is my intention to initiate a Global Tourism Fund from which Member States shall derive substantive value.

Tourism and Travel are inordinately taxed by national governments, and yet the sector benefits the least from the significant revenue it generates. There simply has to be some form of mechanism to claw back even a little more of that revenue and then leverage against that seed capital to establish an effective Fund.

On the basis of the 1,2 billion travelers logged in 2015, just a single dollar per traveller, passed back, could inject US$ 1,2 billion of ‘seed capital’ into such a Fund.

The Case for Growing the Tourism Business Every country today boasts of a tourism economy.

Apart from reinforcing the Golden Book on Tourism concept, my tenure will include deep political conversation with Member States on creating viable national structures that can sustainbly serve, enable and facilitate the development of tourism. Optimum fiscal appropriations to the Tourism and Travel Ministries at country level will be strongly advocated in order to enable those structures to perform.

Also included will be advocating for more open but secure and seamless travel coupled with incentivized intelligent taxation of the sector. I shall reassert one of the core responsibilities of this intergovernmental agency – that is the conception and mainstreaming of policies that will enable the Tourism Industry to grow, contributing at least 15 % to global GDP during the course of my tenure. This to be achieved by directing favorable capital formation, and investment and export incentives aligned to SDG aspirations. Input will be sought and leveraged from existing and future partnerships and collaboration with relevant industry associations and affiliate organisations.

In order to induce a greater sense of inclusivity, collective and binding decision making, it is my intention to reach out to those UN member states which, today, remain outside the UNWTO. Apart from further enhancing the universal character of our Organuisation, success in this endeavour will also strengthen the capacity of the UNWTO to more effectively and more comprehensively address contemporary challenges and threats to our sector – terrorism and insecurity coming at the very top of that list.

Incorporated in the broad definition of “insecurities”, and requiring timeous and sustainable responses and adaptation will be natural disasters, climate change, biodiversity terrorism – in particular wildlife poaching – marine and terrestrial.

Whist on the sensitive area of terrorism targeting tourism, I shall give maximum attention to mobilizing governments to protect tourism against this scourge through greater and enhanced security collaboration, intelligence gathering and sharing , standardization and certification of safety procedures, post-crisis management and capacity building of Member States alertness and response preparedness .

Equally, I shall leverage the soft power characteristics of tourism to complement the deployment of hard power by governments, by further unleashing the potential of peopleto- people diplomacy inherent in travel and tourism, whose kinetic force can never be defeated by terror.

The 1.8 billion travelers forecast by 2030, are all potentially peace ambassadors , and travel will be used to secure peace through greater social interaction , tolerance and cultural understanding.

It is super-critical to drive the Organization towards a Convention on Ethics, to induce peer review, fair, moral, just practice and censure, the issue of travel advisories, child sexual abuse and responsible tourism being most topical. Again, only a universal-in-character Organization can achieve that.

Finally I do not seek your support out of any sense of entitlement based primarily on Africa’s somewhat miniscule presence within global tourism. It is also the goal of driving growth with equity for all regions that prompted my decision to run for office.

Tourism is a poverty-ending tool, a low hanging fruit and one that answers job creation – witness the 288 million already employed within the global industry.

It is quite logical to link the buoyant performance and market share of Europe , the Americas, and the Middle East to the footprint and legacy of the men who have been privileged to shape not just global tourism agendas but to bring intimacy and understanding of its significance to their respective regions.

My candidature brings with it a tried and tested craft competence , deep-seated knowledge and hard-earned experience. The wisdom and maturity born of that experience complete the set of imparatives necessary for the sound management of our Organisation.

I sincerely believe I have been trained and mentored on these core imperatives by way of association, engagement and interaction with the many expert practitioners I have met along my lengthy journey.

With humility and respect, I have willed myself to learn from their example. The personal journey I have made – some of which I have shared with you this evening – and the challenges I have faced, presiding over the development of tourism in Zimbabwe and, as CAF Chairperson, in Africa more broadly, have prepared and armed me well to take up and to successfully deliver in the role of Secretary General.

For the sake of our Organisation and for the future development of global tourism, may the very best candidate prevail.

The Ten Point Plan and Conclusion

In summary, allow me to itemize and summarise the ten points against which I make my case to be elected as the Secretary General of the UNWTO. Those who would wish for more detail are invited to visit my website.

1. Universality – Aim to achieve Universal State Membership aligned to UN Membership. Every country now hosts a tourism economy, making membership imperative (Current UN Membership 192, UNWTO Membership 157). Equally important is to grow Affiliate and Associate Membership to levels commensurate with sectoral growth.

2. Inclusivity – Tourism for all: Campaign for the right of every individual to enjoy barrier free travel and product access around the globe regardless of physical challenges, age, gender, colour or creed.

3. Relevance – To develop a value proposition that meets Member States aspirations beyond the current technical policy functions, giving emphasis to networking and partnerships for tourism resource mobilisation and developmental needs.

4. Responsiveness – Sensitivity to emerging contemporary challenges that include inter-alia; security, terrorism, political conditions, pandemics, epidemics, climate change, human trafficking, child sexual abuse and embracing ICT solutions.

5. Fairness – To promote policies that foster growth with equity, equal treatment and equitable resource allocation to Member States; sign-posting tourism contribution to Global GDP from 10% to 15% during my tenure.

6. Facilitation – Lobby and advocate for intelligent taxation, safe, secure and seamless travel through Open Skies, Open Borders and security sensitive policies.

7. Diplomacy – Leverage on tourism as a tool for sound inter- and intra-state relations, tolerance, citizen engagement and deployment of soft power in the resolution of contemporary challenges to create peace, social harmony and understanding.

8. Integration – To locate tourism in the trade and investment value chain (visit, trade, invest), harnessing its resilience, low hanging fruit and catalytic characteristics.

9. Sustainability – To promote sustainable tourism and green growth which expresses itself in all the SDGs, in particular SDG 8, 12 and 14.

10. Accountability – Member States accountability to each other on the application of travel advisories and peer review, recognising that every tourism economy doubles up as a source and destination market, including acceleration and transformation of the Tourism Global Code of Ethics into a Convention.

Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen, I have put forward my case and I hope and believe that you share my vision for a progressive and expanding UNWTO.

I thank you for listening to me and I count on your support to become the next Secretary General of the UNWTO.