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Transcript: Walter Mzembi’s official pitch for UNWTO Secretary general delivered


The Hon. Walter Mzembi just delivered his official pitch to become the next UNWTO Secretary-General to delegates attending the Executive Council meeting in Madrid at the Melia Castilla Hotel.

The transcript of his address he gave shortly after 10.30 am  this morning.

Your Royal Highness
Excellencies, Secretary General, Ladies and Gentlemen

The world finds itself in a different place today than where it was twelve months ago!

The global environment which characterized Taleb’s tenure of office has changed, presenting new, multi-faceted challenges for our sector and, inevitably, for his successor.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I present my candidature in an environment replete with challenges inter alia:

  • a new and intensifying trend towards isolationism and intolerance by state administrations;
  • the apparent shift towards unilateralism and populism;
  • the issue of migration and its unintended consequences on the receiving countries;
  • the threat of cyber-terrorism and the unintended consequences of the ICT revolution, and
  • the threat of terror directed at the tourism industry now more pronounced than ever before. Equally so, the travel-related impact of natural disasters – many of them the direct consequence of climate change: especially in small-island developing states.

It is clear that the next Secretary General will have to grapple with the impact of political decisions emanating from nation states against each other – where diplomacy has given way to unilateralism, and where tourism-economies find themselves negatively impacted.

Accordingly, the incoming Secretary General, will have to be suitably equipped – in terms of qualification, professional experience, general aptitude and craft-competence – to successfully confront these challenges and to effectively respond to the expectations of members states in this changing world.

I believe my candidature amply responds to the requirements of the task ahead.

I present myself as a change agent – ready and equipped to renew and reposition our Organisation going forward.

The essence of my vision for the future development of global tourism as enunciated in my Statement of Policy and Management Intent, lists a four-pronged Agenda covering the following areas;

  • Administrative and Governance Reform of the Organisation
  • Resource Mobilisation and Business Development
  • Responsible Tourism and Sustainability
  • Organisational Repositioning and Brand Development

My candidature is about

  • reform and renewal of the Organisation;
  • providing leadership which will take the UNWTO beyond marketing excellence into the realm of high-level diplomacy and statecraft: and to new levels of global visibility and relevance;

It is about

  • building an Organisation with more universal membership;
  • to enhance its effectiveness and relevance within the broader UN family so that tourism, with its cross-cutting presence within all 17 SDG’s, can meet its obligations under the SDG framework;

It is about

  • building a more fully inclusive Organisation;
  • one which accommodates and reflects all views and which seeks, through inclusive consultation, to find comprehensive solutions to the challenges which confront the industry today;

It is about

  • ensuring greater fairness and equity in the development and growth of global tourism, especially in the emerging world where tourism receipts continue to lag significantly behind other parts of the world;

It is about promoting Sustainable Tourism, Green Growth, Community Empowerment which expresses itself in all the SDGs, in particular SDG 8, 12, and 14;

My candidature will re-enforce a global regime on openness and safe secure and seamless travel, signposting sectoral contribution to global GDP from 10% to 15% during my tenure.

It is about

  • maintaining a lean and efficient Secretariat which is more reflective of the UNWTO’s broad membership and more gender sensitive. If elected, I will have adequate time before taking office to study the existing structure and to determine what reforms, if any, maybe be required to refocus and re-direct the existing skills and expertise, whilst also allowing infusion of new blood;
  • I shall inaugurate a Commission on Small Island Developing States, SIDS, some of them exclusively tourism-economies to look after issues of relevance to them, including implementation of relevant SDG’s, particularly SDG 14, Life Under Water; and the Paris Climate targets by 2050;
  • I am in favour of Regional Commissions becoming more visible, present and operational in their respective theatres of activity; and I intend to foster tourism policy consummation, institutionalization and positive working relationships between regional commission offices at the headquarters and Regional Economic Communities (RECs). We need to develop shared programmes of work and this would not necessarily necessitate setting up offices, but devolving work content to points of application and implementation.
  • I commit myself to establishing a monitoring and evaluation mechanism to facilitate the timeous implementation of our resolutions and decisions.

It is about

  • working tirelessly to secure Tourism’s place as an integral component within the broader trade and investment value chain : after all, each trade and/or investment begins with a visit;

It is about

  • initiating debate on the creation of a Global Tourism Fund – an innovative and sustainable source of funding for global tourism development – leveraging on tourism’s chief indicators – i.e. arrivals, expenditure etc; creating space within ODA for tourism-related funding; leveraging Public-Private-Partnerships to fund and implement infrastructural projects that connect destinations and product-development;

My candidature is about

  • building the Organisation’s capacity to respond more effectively and practically to issues such as Tourism and Security, Travel Bans, the Use/Abuse of Travel Advisories; the impact of Currency Fluctuations; Pandemics; Climate Change, Natural Disasters; Child Sexual Abuse; and the complex, sensitive issue of Migrants;

With regard to this latter issue, my Vision speaks to the need for some form of “Marshall Plan” approach – to stem the flow of migrants by way of targeted investment in tourism, creating employment opportunities at home so that, in future, we have tourists…..not migrants on our door steps.

My candidature is about returning shareholder interest and value to the Organisation.

Observe the unprecedented level of political participation and interest in this Executive Council meeting : obviously attracted by the overtly political content of our Agenda – specifically the future leadership of the Organisation.

My candidature is premised on ensuring that this level of political and shareholder interest and attendant participation is sustained throughout the year, every year; to look at critical issues such as membership-recruitment, transformation of the Global Code of Ethics into an International Convention, and Tourism Security which are clearly political and not secretariat functions .

Excellencies, I am convinced that this vision’s realization lies, essentially, in transformative leadership – exactly the calibre of leadership which I offer.

Beginning April last year when I entered this race, I have traversed the world, attending all Statutory and Regional Commission meetings and engaging face-to-face with Tourism and Foreign Ministry authorities in all 33 Executive Council member states. I have attended many WTTC Summits, contributing and learning. I also sought input from the Associate Member Flanders.

I did so to gather a deeper appreciation of tourism and the challenges it faces in each geographic region of the world. I listened to and learnt first-hand the concerns and hopes for the future of global tourism under the umbrella of the UNWTO.

In several instances, colleagues shared with me their disquiet concerning (i) the static membership of our organization (ii) the possibility of further withdrawals from it; (iii) the worryingly low level of political participation at key meetings – and the gradual relegation of responsibility, by Ministers, to officials.

Member States aspirations far exceed the value that the organization is currently rendering. Granted, they derive benefit in terms of technical support, but, they expect and indeed deserve more – especially in terms of developmental support aligned to SDG Goals.

If we fail to correctly interpret these signs, or to act upon the messages they convey, and if we believe that a status-quo approach towards the future is good enough, then I believe, truly, that we are undermining our own Organisation and preventing it from attaining its full potential – in terms of global relevance and impact – of which it is surely capable.

The Vision and the substance of my Statement of Policy and Management Intent derives, therefore, from a lengthy, personal engagement with the entire Executive Council and reflects your collective input.

My candidature is unique in another very important aspect. I speak of the fact that I carry the endorsement of the entire African continent.

My CV speaks for itself in terms of academic and professional qualifications and deep-rooted experience in the tourism sector including my tourism-related legacy at the AU.

You all know the passion, energy, mental agility and determination I bring to the table.

I am more than ready to serve global tourism and will do so to the very best of my ability.

Allow me to thank you for the opportunity to share my vision for the future of the UNWTO with you.

It would be remiss of me not to pay special tribute and commendation to Dr. Taleb Rifai for his outstanding service to our organization. Taleb I salute you !

I Thank You!

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About the author

Juergen T Steinmetz

Juergen Thomas Steinmetz has continuously worked in the travel and tourism industry since he was a teenager in Germany (1977).
He founded eTurboNews in 1999 as the first online newsletter for the global travel tourism industry.