UNWTO inspectorate jets in

HARARE - A United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) inspectorate team is expected in Zimbabwe today to assess the country’s preparedness to host its forthcoming general assembly.

Zimbabwe will co-host the event with Zambia in August in the resort town of Victoria Falls.

The UNWTO delegation, which will be in the country for two days, will conduct the third and final round of inspection in both Zambia and Zimbabwe.

Walter Mzembi, Tourism minister, said he anticipated a positive outcome of the evaluation.

“The technical inspectorate team is expected to meet the head of the Cabinet committee on the hosting of UNWTO, acting President Joyce Mujuru and government officials. After that they will move to Victoria Falls and Livingstone to inspect the facilities,” Mzembi told businessdaily.

The inspectorate was in Zimbabwe in October last year after a three-member team first visited Victoria Falls from February 29 to March 1.

Then, the UNWTO  confirmed the country’s preparations to host the high profile event were on track.
The assembly is expected to attract more than 5 000 participants.

Mzembi said sufficient ground has been covered in the preparations.

“The results of the team’s assessment will be reviewed in a fortnight in Madrid, Spain, where we are going to have a second trilateral meeting involving Zimbabwean and Zambian tourism ministers and UNWTO secretary-general,” said Mzembi.

He added that local tourism industry players were expected to attend the annual Spanish FITUR International Tourism Trade Fair in Madrid from January 30 to February 3.

“FITUR, like our own Sanganai, is a global meeting point for tourism professionals and the leading trade fair for inbound and outbound markets. An investment symposium will be running concurrently with FITUR and our aim is to market Zimbabwe vigorously to international investors.”

Last year, at least 9 506 exhibiting companies from 167 countries, 119 322 trade participants and 91 555 people attended the FITUR.

Also, about 6 313 journalists from 54 countries turned up to cover the event, demonstrating the importance of FITUR on the international tourism circuit.

Mzembi said government intends to use the event to market the country’s depressed tourism industry and more importantly to correct misconceptions around the country.

Meanwhile, concern has been raised over the slow pace of upgrading infrastructure in Victoria Falls ahead of the UNWTO assembly.

Experts and analysts have also warned that if violent, the impending elections could hamper business brought about by hosting the key UNWTO event. - John Kachembere

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