St. Petersburg — Tourism Cabinet Secretary Najib Balala was elected to chair the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) Executive Council, Friday.
The elections took place during the UNWTO General Assembly in Saint Petersburg, Russia.
The Council consists of full members elected by the Assembly in the proportion of one member for every five full members, in accordance with the rules of procedure laid down by the Assembly with a view to achieving fair and equitable geographical distribution.
Speaking to Capital during a phone interview from Russia, Balala said he is delighted to have been elected to chair this important council.
"This is the most powerful committee of the organization (UN) that elects the Secretary General and makes decision on many things of the organization."
"We have developed a ten-point road map for Africa that will deal with issues of branding the African continent and changing the narrative," said Balala.
He said in his one-year tenure as the chair to the UNWTO he will be pushing for the development of a Tourism Commission in the African Union adding that currently the AU has a Commission of Infrastructure, Peace and Security among others, but tourism, which employs millions of people in the region has been neglected.
"The African Union needs to appreciate that tourism is one of the largest economic pillars in Africa employing 21 million people ... unfortunate, it does not have a commission of its ownT the AU has many commissions, the commission for infrastructure, peace and security,but not tourism," Balala to Capital FM reporter Charles Mghenyi.
African Tourism Board chairperson, Cuthbert Ncube, congratulated Balala on his election.
"This is an important achievement not only for him but for Africa and its vibrant travel and tourism industry," he said
"It shows the importance and richness of Africa as a driver in the global travel and tourism industry. We're looking forward to working with Kenya as an important leader in improving our Communities through Sustainable Tourism," said Ncube.
Kenyan, tourism stakeholders have also congratulated Balala. Diani Reef Hotel Managing Director Bobby Kamani describe this as an outstanding achievement for Kenya, and one that will place Africa on the global map.
"It is also a true testament to Kenya as a significant tourism hub,"hub he said.
"I have been privileged to work closely with Honourable Najib Balala in the Kenya Coast Working Group and Private Sector Taskforce and I'm confident that he will do justice to his new role and, as always, will deliver beyond expectations," said Kamani.