UNWTO Secretary-General’s official visits to the Democratic Republic of Congo, Botswana and Mali

The Secretary-General visited the Democratic Republic of Congo, Botswana and Mali in order to discuss the development of sustainable tourism in the countries and provide support for the positioning of the travel and tourism sector in their national agendas.

Mr. Rifai started off visiting the Democratic Republic of Congo where he held bilateral meetings with the President of the National Assembly, M. Aubin Minaku, the honorable President of the Senate, M. Léon Kengo wa Dondo and other high level government officials. The discussion points focused on the importance of travel facilitation, the implementation of e-visas, attracting more airlines to the destination and the importance of working on the country’s branding. Mr. Rifai also met with students from L’Institut Supérieur Pédagogique (hotel and tourism), Université Protestante au Congo (faculty of economics) and Université Catholic au Congo (faculty of development) for discussions and debate on the future of tourism in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

At the kind invitation of the Honorable Minister of Environment Natural Resources Conservation and Tourism, Mr. Tshekedi Khama, the Secretary-General travelled on to Gaborone and Maun in Botswana, 24-27 July. During his visit the Secretary-General met with private sector stakeholders of Botswana. Discussions were centered on Botswana’s need for product diversification, having achieved their aim and objectives regarding wildlife conservation, especially in the Okavango Delta.  The Secretary-General had the opportunity to experience for himself the open safari in the Delta at the Wilderness Safari Savuti Camp. Mr Rifai also had the opportunity to meet students from the University of Botswana and listened to their aspirations for the development of tourism within their country. He met with Prof. Thabo T. Fako - acting Vice Chancellor of the University and discussed the possibility of setting up the University as a center of excellence in Botswana. The idea will be further explored with the support of UNWTO.

Mr. Rifai´s stay on the continent concluded with his visit to the Republic of Mali, 3-5 August. The honorable Minister of Handicrafts and Tourism (MAT), S.E. Mme. Nina Walet Intallou, expressed her appreciation for the Secretary-General’s support extended to Mali over the years. His visit was regarded as a message of hope for tourism stakeholders, as development and growth of the tourism sector in the country is challenging. At a meeting with public and private sector stakeholders, the Secretary-General discussed pertinent issues and shared his thoughts on what could be done to further support Mali´s tourism. The Secretary-General was given a tour of the National Museum of Bamako, which gives an amazing overview of Mali’s history. Albeit current challenges, the government of Mali understands the value and importance of the tourism sector to the economy. The political will was further reaffirmed when H.E. Mr. Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta, President of the Republic of Mali accepted the UNWTO/WTTC Open Letter on Travel and Tourism which the Secretary-General had the honor to present to him.