UNWTO report out February

HARARE - Zimbabwe will only know its fate in hosting the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) general assembly next month, Walter Mzembi, Tourism minister said.

He said a report by UNWTO’s inspectorate team, currently in the country to conduct the third and final assessment of Zimbabwe’s preparedness to host the premier tourism event, will be out in February, after his trip to the Spanish FITUR International Tourism Trade Fair.

Zimbabwe will co-host the assembly with Zambia in August in the resort town of Victoria falls.

More than 5 000 participants are expected.

This comes as concern has been raised over the slow pace of upgrading infrastructure in Victoria Falls ahead of the event, less than seven months away, but Mzembi remains upbeat.

“We are ready to host the world and our preparations are on track,” said Mzembi on Tuesday.

Economic experts have said Zimbabwe — with a depressed tourism industry and spoiled image in key source markets — must use the platform to market itself.

Mzembi, who will be leading local tourism operators to the Spanish fair in Madrid from January 30 to February 3, said the country is confident of passing the UNWTO final test.

“It’s a matter of public record now that we are absolutely committed through the trilateral signature of President (Robert) Mugabe, President (Michael) Sata and UNWTO secretary-general,” Mzembi said.

“Beyond that trilateral signature is execution of the promise that we made to the world that we are ready and fit to host the conference.”

In Spain, Zimbabwean and Zambian Tourism ministers will meet with UNWTO secretary general who will then brief them of the assessment results.

The inspectorate team began its actual assessment yesterday of the tourism and hospitality facilities that include hotels, lodges, airports and the venues.

Munir Rayes, UNWTO’s chief of conferences, also expressed confidence that Zimbabwe will be able to pull the event successfully.

“From what I have seen so far it’s on track,” Rayes said, “We find the same commitment we saw last year.”

As part of efforts to ensure easy mobility during the conference, Zimbabwe and Zambia have agreed to introduce a visa free system to facilitate the flow of delegates into the two countries. - Business Writer

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