Zimbabwean president Robert Mugabe is the latest international envoy to represent the United Nations World Tourism Organisation.
Mugabe gained the recognition despite a poor international reputation in which he is accused of ethnic cleansing, rigging elections and leading Zimbabwe's ruined economy.
University of Zimbabwe politics professor John Makumbe was surprised by the accolade.
"I think it's ridiculous because Zimbabwe is one of the countries least used by tourists," said Makumbe.
"Tourism is at its lowest level because of the political and economic crises it's gone through. Tourists really wish Victoria Falls was in another country, like South Africa.
"Robert Mugabe will do more damage to international tourism than good. His image is in tatters, his country is an international pariah."
Yet on Tuesday at Victoria Falls, Mugabe, along with Zambian president Michael Sata, signed an agreement with UNWTO secretary general Taleb Rifai to take on the envoy role.
The agreement comes ahead of next year's UNWTO general assembly to be hosted by Zimbabwe and Zambia in August next year.
The UNWTO said it had not appointed Mugabe to any formal position and that Mugabe had only signed an open letter about supporting tourism to heads of state.
The Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition has launched criticism at the decision too.
"It boggles the mind how the UN could appoint Mugabe as an ambassador of any sort," said a coalition spokesperson.
"It sends the wrong message to Mugabe that he is now acceptable to the international community.
"This is the same guy who last week was bashing gays and lesbians, who he says are worse than dogs."
Mugabe is unable to travel freely with European Union and US sanctions placed upon him.
- © Fairfax NZ News