Mzembi leads African tourism reform lobby

MEDELLIN - Zimbabwe's Tourism minister Walter Mzembi has pledged to lead a strong lobby for the African Union (AU) to fully recognise tourism's contribution to the continent's economy by facilitating policies that help its growth.

This also comes as the Masvingo South legislator has been re-elected chair of the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) commission for Africa.

"The reelection of Zimbabwe was by universal acclamation and (the voters) were hoping to use the CAF tourism chairman's proximity to the AU chair to push for more space (in Addis Abbaba)," Mzembi said on the sidelines of the 57th UNWTO commission meeting here in Colombia.

"I am sure the delegates also gave us (the mandate and leadership) based on our performance at home, including the five percent unassailable lead of our tourism sector in a continent, which recorded a two percent decline," he said.

As a result, Mzembi has unveiled a 10 point plan and agenda to take to President Robert Mugabe's AU, which includes an integrated marketing and product development of African destinations, revamp of visa and taxation issues as well as improvement of connectivity issues.

In particular, the continental body is also concerned about the Ethiopian-based organisation's plans to raise money for its daily expenses through a $10 tax on visitors to and from Africa. As such, the trained engineer is to lead a powerful delegation of ministers to seek audience with African Commission chairlady Nkosazana Dhlamini-Zuma in end-October.

"While there is a strong case to find sustainable homegrown ways of funding the AU, it is imperative to mention that tourism is already heavily taxed across (the) supply chain," the Zimbabwean tourism minister said, adding it was essential to have an institutional presence because "tourism was subsumed under the energy and infrastructural commission".

Through this reelection, Mzembi is also hoping to use his CAF post to launch a bid for the UNWTO secretary general's post in 2017.

In his chairmanship review report for the past two years, the Zanu PF minister also said member countries faced a challenge in accelerating tourism growth and to ensure that it positively contributes to economies, and Africa's continental output.

While international tourist arrivals hit 1,1 billion people and representing a near five percent increase last year, Africa's market share and receipts stagnated at below five percent.

"...tourism continues to be the locomotive for sustainable socio-economic development on the continent, despite a myriad of challenges that confront the industry," Mzembi said, noting further that amid a dismal two percent stake or claim of the $1,5 trillion global tourism cake Africa needed to double its rate by 2020.

"Africa's international tourist numbers in the first half of 2015... declined by an estimated six percent as a consequence of the decrease in arrivals to North Africa... sub-Saharan Africa amid security concerns and the Ebola contagion effect," he said.

Apart from the ubiquitous nature, impact and collateral damage suffered from epidermic, the continental industry was also hit by terrorism attacks in Kenya and Tunisia, among other destinations.

Using the continent's diversified and natural tourism product, the Zanu PF member of parliament also said CAF could close the gap between itself and the rest of the world.

"Perception in source markets unfortunately views Africa as one... country when in fact the continent is a conglomerate of 54 states... African destinations by sub-regions, configuration are thousands miles apart from the source of... Ebola... which has been successfully contained..," Mzembi said, adding it was safe to visit African countries, including those affected by the scourge.

"...notwithstanding the concerted efforts... to mitigate and contain the outbreak, Africa has been unable to initiate a concurrent impact assessment on the travel economy and capacitate itself to assess the same going forward," he said.

While the commission wants these negative issues or elements institutionalised at the AU, Mzembi said peace was a key pre-requisite for any destination's competitiveness.

"No matter how good a country's product offering maybe, the absence of peace leads to negative travel advisories to affected destinations and reduced drastically potential revenue..," he said.

On the scourge of poaching across Africa, the Zanu PF legislator said this had the potential of destabilising the continent's "pristine biodiversity".

Comments (1)

Mzembi, ZTA and the hoteliers are seemingly happy with their pricing models, now we are seeing organisations taking their annual conferences out of Zimbabwe, thereby promoting companies in other countries and killing our own

shuus - 18 September 2015

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