9 October 2011
Gyeongju — THE 19th Session of the United Nations World Tourism Organisation officially opened here yesterday afternoon with lobbying to host the 2013 general assembly reaching fever pitch between Zimbabwe/Zambia, Russia and Qatar.
The decision on which country will host the assembly will be made on Thursday night and announced on Friday. Zimbabwe is using its muscle as a member of the executive council of the UNWTO and its chairmanship of the Regional Tourism Organisation of Southern Africa and the unmatched beauty of the Victoria Falls to win the bid. The teeming verdant jungles surrounding Zimbabwe and Zambia and the roaming wildlife in the Kavango Delta are incomparable to the concrete jungles of Russia and the desert in Qatar.
The Zimbabwe/Zambia co-hosting bid seems to have a slight edge over the others after UNWTO secretary general Mr Taleb Rufai indicated that it was Africa’s time.
“The Zimbabwe-Zambia co-hosting bid means a lot to Africa in general and the Sadc region in particular. I hope it becomes successful when the decision is made by the council.
“The last time Africa held the UNWTO general assembly was in 2005 in Senegal. Time is now on the side of Africa. At least brothers and sisters in Africa seem to be speaking with one voice. I hope they continue doing so,” said Mr Rifai in an earlier interview.
No other African country has made a bid to host the general assembly. At the official opening ceremony, there was intense lobbying between Qatar and Russia, while Zimbabwe seemed to have the whole of Africa rallying behind it. Tourism and Hospitality Industry Minister Walter Mzembi, who is leading the Zimbabwe delegation, had earlier yesterday appealed to African states to support the Zambia/Zimbabwe bid to co-host the 2013 general assembly in Victoria Falls.
Minister Mzembi was addressing delegates at the 52nd meeting of the UNWTO Commission for Africa, on the sidelines of 19th session of the UNWTO general assembly.
“Africa has indeed submitted its bid through a co-bid by the republics of Zambia and Zimbabwe. The latter will be the platform and Africa will be the theatre. The same spirit that saw us successfully hosting the 2010 edition of the World Cup through the South African platform, has once again found place in Africa through Zambia and Zimbabwe”, said Minister Mzembi.