Zim govt UNWTO own goal

HARARE - Zimbabwe has missed out on the chance to make a lasting impression on the international market during the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) general assembly, following revelations that government is not able to fulfil its $6 million pledge.

This is a chance to cleanse its battered image.

When government made promises last year to unveil funds towards the construction of legacy projects such as a conference centre as well as the upgrading of the Victoria Falls Airport, the whole world stood still.

However, because of our misplaced priorities as a nation, Finance minister Tendai Biti confirmed our worst fears when this week he said government had more pressing issues that require immediate attention such as elections and the referendum.

What this means is that the country has missed the chance to benefit from legacy projects which are by-products associated with the co-hosting of the prestigious conference in August.

Only last year, Zanu PF was able to fork out $6 million to build its “hall of shame” in Gweru, which is already a white elephant, yet government is failing to provide funds to build lasting legacies which have economic benefits to the country.

The Harare International Conference Centre (HICC) and the Rainbow Hotel (formerly the Sheraton Hotel) are good examples of what a nation can achieve when its priorities are best placed.

For all his misgivings, President Robert Mugabe got it right when he commissioned the construction of the HICC in time to host the Commonwealth Head of States and government meeting in 1985.

Now more than 25 years down the line, we are all enjoying the legacy of that era.

It’s an internationally accepted phenomena that conferencing triggers economic growth and over the years the HICC has proved just that.

The 4 500-seater is still very active, albeit with smaller crowds, for various conferences while the adjacent hotel also benefits from room occupancy and corporate functions.

The UNWTO general assembly presents a golden opportunity for the country to shake off its bad boy image it acquired in the early 2000s when it embarked on a disastrous land reform programme.

Since then, Zimbabwe has failed to get access to international credit lines due to its appalling human rights record coupled with the country’s high political risk.

The wobbly inclusive government should have taken a leaf from our northern neighbour, put their house in order and prioritised the tourism event.

Zambia recently allocated $20 million for infrastructure development ahead of the conference to show how serious they are about the general assembly. - Staff Writer

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