Somalia and Comoros have gained entry into the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) as the 157th and 158th Member States and the 50th and 51st African countries to be admitted.
Their admission was announced on Thursday during the 22nd UNWTO General Assembly in Chengdu, China after securing a two-thirds majority vote.
The UNWTO membership was made up of 157 countries until the recent withdrawal of Australia. There are six territories and over 500 affiliate members representing the private sector, educational institutions, tourism associations and local tourism authorities.
Somalia’s membership follows a meeting in June between the Information, Culture & Tourism Minister Abdirahman Omar Osman and the outgoing UNWTO Secretary General Taleb D. Refai in Spain on the progress Somalia has made in terms of tourism.
This was followed by Somalia’s formal request to be admitted in August in order to develop and promote its tourism on a larger scale and benefit from expertise.
Comoros applied to join earlier in April this year and their vice president Djaffar Ahmed Said was present at the Assembly on Thursday for the occasion.
A third country – the State of Palestine – also applied to be admitted to the organisation but later pulled out.
Meanwhile, Zimbabwe’s Tourism Minister Walter Mzembi, and former minister of tourism of Seychelles, Alain St Ange missed the Secretary General position which went to Zurab Pololikashvili from Georgia.
His appointment came with a lot of controversy after his recommendation by the Executive Council to the General Assembly in May by a simple majority of the members of the Council present who voted.
Walter Mzembi had won the first round of the vote before losing the final round to the Georgian candidate which he described as fraudulent.
Mzembi requested for a ballot vote on Thursday but was rejected in favour of the required consensus vote that confirmed the selection of Zurab Pololikashvili who will take over from Jordanian Taleb D. Refai and serve from 2018 to 2021.