mr taleb rifai.jpgThe United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) Secretary General, Mr. Taleb Rifai, has officially confirmed his visit to Zimbabwe and Zambia from 28 to 30 May 2012.

The confirmation was made at a meeting held in Berlin, Germany on the sidelines of the on-going International Tourism Bourse (ITB), between Mr. Rifai and the two Ministers responsible for Tourism, Mr. Given Lubinda of Zambia and Engineer Walter Mzembi of Zimbabwe.

The Zimbabwe delegation at the meeting comprised Zimbabwe’s Ambassador to Germany, His Excellency Hebson Makuvise, the ZTA Chief Executive Karikoga Kaseke and officials from the Ministry of Tourism and Hospitality Industry, while the Zambian delegation was led by the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Tourism, Honourable Given Lubinda.

Announcing his historic visit to the two countries set to co-host the next UNWTO General Assembly, Mr. Rifai said his visit is the highest level of re-engagement between the two countries and the UN special agency on tourism.

He said he hoped the two countries will leverage on it to derive maximum benefits.

“This visit will also be political. Let us use it to raise awareness and build excitement around the continent and beyond for the next General Assembly. Even the general public should have interest in this important event,” he said.

Mr. Rifai who has been at the helm of this specialised tourism agency of the United Nations since 2009, expressed his desire to meet all key tourism stakeholders including government, the private sector, legislators, the media and civil society during his official visit.
He further said he was impressed by the report he received from the UNWTO inspection team that assessed facilities and progress in Zambia and Zimbabwe a fortnight ago.

“We received with satisfaction the news that the inspection team is happy with preparations to date. We look forward to all preparations being concluded satisfactorily ahead of the General Assembly,” he said, noting that it is important that all outstanding bilateral issues between Zambia and Zimbabwe would have been finalised by the time of the visit.

Minister Mzembi who had just arrived in the meeting from Chicago, USA where he was on a UNWTO General Assembly popularisation and investment tour, emphasised that the success of the 20th session would be measured to a large extent by the absolute turn out of the 200 member countries and 400 business affiliate organisations to the UNWTO.

He further said the UNWTO Secretary General’s visit should mark the beginning of the official count down to the main event whose dates have now been confirmed as running from the 24th to 29th of August 2013.

Minister Mzembi underscored the need to brand the event uniquely African and encouraged the technical team to conclude the thematic topics around which delegates would workshop.

The Secretary General concluded the meeting on a lighter note branding Minister Mzembi as more of a “friend” than his boss in the Executive Council.

Incidentally, it is at the Victoria Falls that the next Secretary General of the UNWTO will be confirmed and Zimbabwe has already thrown its weight behind Taleb Rifai’s candidature.