HAZ ready for UNWTO

HARARE - The Hospitality Association of Zimbabwe (Haz) says it is ready to host the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) General Assembly next year, with hotel refurbishments and membership training well on course.

From the time Zimbabwe won the bid to co-host the UNWTO General Assembly with Zambia, the tourism sector has been kept on its toes with various high-powered local and foreign delegations having to assess the capacity to host a conference of that magnitude.

Zimbabwe has to upgrade the Victoria Falls Airport, revamp water and sewer reticulation systems, resurface roads and rehabilitate the  hospital in the resort town.

Tich Hwingwiri, Haz president, said hospitality industry players were playing their part to ensure the success of the General Assembly.

“We are optimistic that we have the capacity to host such a prestigious event. Although we have less than a year to finish our preparations, we are confident that all our products and services will be up to standard,” he said in an interview.

About 2 000 delegates from six regional commissions of the UNWTO — Africa, the Americas, Pacific, Europe, the Middle East and South Asia — are expected to attend the conference.

As part of the preparation, Hwingwiri said Haz in conjunction with the Federation of Hospitality Association of Southern Africa is hosting motivational workshops aimed at improving skills and mindset change among tourism players ahead of the UNWTO event.

“A quick scan of the developments in the industry has revealed that there has been a depletion of the skills base which has been experienced over the past few years,” he said.  

“This constituent of the hospitality industry needs to be re-energised in addition to the renewal of their passion to meet the challenge of producing a memorable and uniquely African UNWTO General Assembly and be capable to even carry on post the event.”

Hwingwiri said although a number of players are refreshing and refurbishing their product, the association believes skills development and motivational presentations will enhance the country’s tourism product.

Tamuka Macheka, Haz vice president, said the UNWTO General Assembly will provide the whole tourism industry in general and Victoria Falls in particular with a new lease of life and an opportunity to showcase the tourism potential of the destination and this requires that all players put their best foot forward.

Macheka said government has assured tourism players that a solution on Air Zimbabwe, which is currently reeling from debts and problems, associated with old equipment, and is only servicing the Harare-Bulawayo-Victoria Falls route three days a week, would be found soon.

“We will not fail the nation. From the way things are looking, we are ready for UNWTO, but should things go the other way we are fully prepared to go another route. Our plan B is as good as our first initiative, so there is no room for failure,” he said.

Meanwhile, preparations for the Haz annual congress to be held in Gweru next month are at advanced stages. Hwingwiri said the annual congress, running under the theme “Into the spotlight” is part of preparations for the UNWTO Assembly next year. - John Kachembere

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