Samarkand, Uzbekistan, October 30, 2023 / TRAVELINDEX / International delegates and media attending the 25th UNWTO General Assembly have expressed their delight of the historical city of Samarkand in Uzbekistan.
Many who spoke about their impressions of the capital city, which is a cultural citadel, have been surprised with the developments and commitments of the government to position Uzbekistan as a new tourism draw.
Hosting UNWTO’s highest organisational structure for the first time, Uzbekistan staged one of the culturally enriching side events to celebrate the historical city.
Speaking to VoyagesAfriq on their impressions of the General Assembly, Rodney Sikumba, Minister of Tourism of Zambia, was excited. From his arrival at night to the glowing sun in the morning that unraveled the country’s beauty.
“When we arrived in Uzbekistan, I was not sure where we were. From the airport to the train and finally to Samarkand, we saw amazing places,” Sikumba said.
Speaking at the General Assembly, the Zambian minister noted that the number of participants at this year’s assembly was overwhelming.
But what resonated with him were the opening ceremony speeches by Shavkat Mirziyoyev, president of Uzbekistan and Zurab Pololikashvili, UNWTO secretary general.
“The Uzbekistan president’s speech reflected the views of Hakainde Hichilema, my president, on a number of issues particularly PPP, safe cities, open skies and connectivity, which is a big issue in Africa. We are looking at creating airstrips across our provinces in Zambia to make it easier for people to travel”.
He was also impressed with the plenary sessions where he saw figures from his colleagues who are pushing boundaries for tourism to become economic driver of their respective countries.
“Tourism gives, it never takes away unlike other sectors,” Sikumba concluded.
On his part, Abdulla Mausoom, Minister of Tourism, Republic of Maldives, expressed that the General Assembly was super good.
On his impression about the host country, he noted, “From our arrival to the hosting, the Uzbekistan team has been good. The venue is new and marvelous”. He was also impressed with the exciting opening ceremony and great speeches by the Uzbekistan president and the secretary general of the UNWTO. “The Investment Forum was very insightful and it challenged all of us here.
“Considering that the General Assembly is well organized, it is a landmark success.
Also pulsatile the UNWTO secretary general has been in charge for some years now and he has been leading the global body in some of the most difficult times during the pandemic.
Now we have moved to the next level of tourism and the General Assembly will draw the roadmap to this next level of global tourism,” Mausoom assured.
Folorunsho Coker, Director-General, Nigerian Tourism Development Authority (NTDA), was exceptionally excited being at the General Assembly.
“What I have witnessed so far here in Samarkand identifies that tourism is a good state of being and if your country is in a good state, the reward you will get is tourism.
“People will bring their resources to come to discover what you have to offer from whatever form of tourism you have,” Coker said.
He is concerned about improved air connectivity in Africa.
“We need greater connectivity, in the world today, 95 percent of global tourism is enjoyed by 5 percent of countries in the tourism ecosystem.
“There is a need to explore deeper, open minds like the Saudis are doing with their sponsorships,” he said.
On his impressions about the host country, the Nigerian tourism boss said, “We are standing on brand new infrastructure in Samarkand and this investment was done in two years.
“From what I can see, this is going to be the center of MICE for the ‘STAN’ countries: Pakistan, Afghanistan, Turkmenistan and others”.
He thinks there is a lesson to learn from Uzbekistan.
“This country has oil and it is investing in tourism. Nigeria has oil too, and should invest in tourism as well,” he strongly called for more investments in the tourism sector of his country.
First published on VoyagesAfriq by Kojo Bentum Williams