Constitution deal good for tourism

HARARE - A draft constitution deal struck by President Robert Mugabe and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai is a major boost to the country’s tourism sector, a Cabinet minister has said.

Speaking to journalists in Harare at the weekend, Tourism minister Walter Mzembi, who is preparing to host the United Nations World Tourism Organisation summit in August, said the seemingly unending constitutional reform process was one “missing pillar” in the sector’s efforts to market the country as a tourist destination.

“What happened last week is a positive development. The finalisation of this important process will certainly induce positive developments for the sector and the message we have been telling the people out there will now have takers. This was the missing pillar,” said Mzembi.

Threats by Mugabe to hold elections with or without reforms have had a negative impact on the country’s image but his recent u-turn, according to Mzembi, is a cause for celebration.

“When we heard that partners had agreed on a draft constitution, we in tourism celebrated. Because if we have conflict in Zimbabwe no one would want to visit the country, because our image is threatened by perception,” said Mzembi.

Mugabe and Tsvangirai have been urging their supporters to desist from violence and recently governing partners Zanu PF and the two MDC formations signed a code of conduct for elections in order to curb the violence scourge.

Zimbabwe’s tourism fortunes took a plunge since 2000 as an aftermath of Mugabe’s violent land grabs and subsequent violent elections.

The West, which used to be the biggest source of tourists, also imposed targeted sanctions on Mugabe and his hangers-on and issued travel warnings to their nationals.

However, the formation of a unity government in 2009 has breathed life in the sector as the country’s image starts to recover.

Turning to preparations for the United Nations tourism summit to be jointly hosted with Zambia in the resort town of Victoria Falls, Mzembi said an inspectorate team which was in the country last week was impressed with the country’s level of preparedness for the event.

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