Mzembi takes world tourism campaign to France
PARIS – Tourism and the Hospitality Industry Minister, Dr Walter Mzembi, has extended his campaign to become the next Secretary General of the UN World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) to France, where he met with senior officials of the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation.
He acknowledged the significance of France, a key player in European tourism, as one of the super-powers in the global tourism industry.
The minister first met with Mr Jean-Pierre Lacroix, Director for United Nations and other International Organisations within the French Foreign Ministry last week.
This was followed by a meeting with Mr Cyrille Pierre, Cabinet Director for the Secretary of State for External Trade and Tourism Promotion - again within the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation.
Dr Mzembi’s visit comes in response to an invitation extended to him by the French authorities, which was issued in the immediate wake of the unanimous endorsement of his candidature by African heads of State and Government at the recent AU Summit meeting in Kigali, Rwanda.
Respectful of Africa’s decision, the French authorities wished to hear first hand from the continent’s candidate for the top UNWTO job, to compare policy thrusts going forward and to satisfy themselves that the interests of the global tourism sector will be in safe hands.
Given France’s status as a major force within the global tourism industry, and the fact that France is a member of the UNWTO Executive Council, their support will be crucial if Dr Mzembi is to clinch the organisation’s top job when the Council convenes at UNWTO headquarters in Spain, in May 2017, to elect a successor to the incumbent, Mr Taleb Rifai of Jordan.
France is widely recognised as Europe’s number one tourism destination, attracting in excess of 80 million visitors a year.
In economic terms, tourism constitutes some 10 percent of France’s Gross Domestic Product, with the industry directly employing more than two million people.
Acknowledging the pivotal role played by France in the genesis of what is, today, the UNWTO, Dr Mzembi paid glowing tribute to the pioneering work of Robert Lonati, a French national, who headed the International Union of Official Travel Organisations (IUOTO) from 1957 until 1974, building it in terms of membership and focus and steering it to become, in 1975, the UNWTO, with its headquarters in Madrid, Spain.
The minister paid similar tribute to another French national, Franceso Frangelli, who headed the UNWTO for three consecutive terms, from 1997 to 2009, and who oversaw the processes leading to its becoming a Specialised Agency within the United Nations family in 2003.
“The importance that France attaches to tourism, in all its multi-faceted aspects, is very clear”, said the Minister.
“Tourism is a major component of the French economy, contributing hugely to the fiscus, to employment creation and to overall national development.
“France is therefore more than just a normal stakeholder in the global tourism industry. Naturally, UNWTO is an important organisation for them. Naturally, France will take a very keen interest in who so ever is elected to lead that organisation going forward”, he noted.
“That is why I am here in Paris. So that those responsible for the tourism industry, for policy-making with regard to the future development of tourism both to and from France, and globally, can meet me, get a feel for me and what I am able bring to the UNWTO table”.
His French hosts were effusive in their congratulations on his candidature and in their recognition of his undoubted qualifications for the job.
Confirming himself to be in complete agreement with the important areas of focus raised by his French hosts, Dr Mzembi zeroed in on the scourge of terror, noting that “the issue of tourism and security is a consistent theme emerging from all those with whom I meet as I engage members of the Executive Council and indeed others - whether it is in Northern Africa, Eastern Africa or here in Europe”.
The final leg of the Minister’s current campaign visit will be to Rome, Italy, where he is scheduled to meet with his counterpart.
Whilst in Italy, Dr Mzembi has requested to visit the area of Amatrice, in the central Italian province of Umbria - the epicentre of the devastating earthquake which struck the region on 23 August 2016. It is not yet certain whether the Italian authorities will be able to accommodate the Minister’s request - given the still very challenging situation on the ground in the area of Amatrice.
Minister Walter Mzembi