HARARE – Africa Albida Tourism (AAT) chief executive officer, Rossy Kennedy, has been awarded the diplomacy award for his work towards reintegrating Zimbabwe with the international community.

Kennedy, who also seats on the board of directors of the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority, has been at the forefront of a campaign to repair Zimbabwe’s image.

The campaign started with President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s administration after it came into power in November 2017 following a soft coup that ended strongman, Robert Mugabe’s 37 year rule.

He has relayed the Zimbabwean story at forums including the London Travel Markets and the Tourism Indaba in South Africa.

His work is among those credited for a sharp rise in tourist arrivals in Zimbabwe, which projects to receive three million visitors this year, and generate at least $1,6 billion from the leisure sector.

Alongside his campaign has been a massive diplomatic offensive in government to drum up foreign direct investment inflows to rebuild Zimbabwe’s failing industries.

The campaign has been running under the theme ‘Zimbabwe is Open for Business’.

The AAT chief was awarded alongside the late music icon, Oliver Mtukudzi, who died at the beginning of the year.

Tuku, who became the first musician be awarded national hero status, was seen as the most accomplished ambassador of the country through his artistic role, which took him across the world.

The national hero status in Zimbabwe is mostly reserved for veterans of Zimbabwe’s 1970s liberation struggle.

Oliver Mtukudzi

In a statement, AAT acknowledged that Kennedy had been awarded for his work in improving Zimbabwe’s imaged.

“Africa Albida Tourism chief executive Ross Kennedy is “humbled” to have won the 2019 Outstanding Contribution to Diplomacy Award, alongside the late great musician Oliver Mtukudzi,” AAT said.

“The award, which is part of the Diplomat of the Year Awards, is given to an organisation or individual who has contributed immensely to the relationship between Zimbabwe and other nations, and whose initiatives have impacted positively on the lives of ordinary people.”

At the event, hosted by the Diplomacy Appreciation Trust and Diplomat Magazine last week, Mtukudzi’s daughter-musician Selmor Mtukudzi, collected her father’s posthumous award.

“I am very humbled to be mentioned in the same breath as Tuku. This award represents what we at Africa Albida Tourism do. It has always been about country first, and the destination of Victoria Falls second, and we are very honoured to have been recognised,” Kennedy said.

The annual awards, established in 2012, celebrate the contribution of diplomats in Zimbabwe to the development of the country and its people.

Victoria Falls Safari Lodge

AAT operates a portfolio of properties in Victoria Falls – Victoria Falls Safari Lodge, Victoria Falls Safari Club, Victoria Falls Safari Suites, Lokuthula Lodges and The Boma – Dinner & Drum Show, as well as Ngoma Safari Lodge in Chobe, Botswana.