MAPUTO, March 2 – Kenya Tourism Minister Najib Balala is the 2009 Africa Tourism Minister of the Year.
Mr Balala emerged top among seven tourism ministers, who had been short-listed for the award, during the Africa Tourism Investors Summit and Award Gala held on Saturday at the Joachim Chissano Conference Centre in Maputo, Mozambique.
The Minister was recognised for his efforts in leading the tourism recovery programme for Kenya in 2008 and raising the country’s tourism profile as a global leader in sustainable tourism.
He was also rewarded for leading the implementation of a government policy on promoting sustainable tourism. Kenya and Gabon were cited as countries that have focused their resources on promoting their countries as eco-friendly tourist destinations.
“My victory and the recognition of seven other tourism entities from Kenya in the award, show that Kenya is a major player in tourism development in Africa and the world. The award is an honour for the entire tourism industry in Kenya,” said Mr Balala after receiving the award.
The Minister was picked by a panel of five judges chaired by Professor Geoffrey Lipman, Special Adviser of the World Tourism Organization.
The Africa Tourism Minister of the Year Award is the most competitive among 14 categories of awards.
This year, it had entries from Africa’s leading ministers including Najib Balala (Kenya), Shamsa Mwangunga (Tanzania), Nandi-Ndaitwah (Namibia), Fernando Sumbana Jr (Mozambique), Mohammed Boussaid (Morocco), Khelil Lajimi (Tunisia), Charles Xavier Luc Duval (Mauritius) and Marthinus Van Schalkwyk of South Africa who was the 2008 winner of the award.
Five other Kenyan entities were short-listed for various awards but did not win. They included the Kenya Tourism Board in the category of Tourism Promotion Agency of the Year and the Tourism Trust Fund (TTF) under the Best Initiative in Facilitating SME Tourism Investment. Other entries were Kenya Airways (Best Airline), Eagle Africa Insurance Brokers (Business Travel Insurer), Ol Malo Eco-Lodge and Trust (Sustainable Tourism Investment) and Nairobi City (Tourism Investor City of the Year).
The event was organised by the International Pan-African investment group, Africa Investor (Ai) in partnership with the Government of Mozambique, the International World Tourism Organization (WTO), the International Finance Corporation (World Bank Group) and NEPAD among others.
Its objective is to recognise the achievement of individuals, governments, businesses, organisations and individuals who have made an outstanding contribution to the growth of sustainable tourism investment in Africa.
The tourism investor summit and awards are designed to showcase Africa’s opportunities and achievements to the rest of the world, collectively raise awareness about Africa as a tourist destination and reward those groups developing the African tourism industry as a vehicle to drive sustainable economic growth.