UNWTO: Zambia's fears a great concern

HARARE - Zambia’s worry over a possible violent poll in Zimbabwe ahead of the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) event it is co-hosting with Harare is of great concern to the local tourism sector.

Zambia and Zimbabwe will co-host the 20th UNWTO General Assembly from August 24 to 29, 2013 in Victoria Falls and Livingstone — a shared vision which is meant to boost both countries’ tourism sectors.

With less than five months before the historic gathering, political instability and arrests of political activists in Zimbabwe has sent negative signals to the tourism world.

Zambia as co-hosts, has every reason to be worried because if Zimbabwe fails to peacefully hold its elections, this will disrupt all the good intentions of the UNWTO General Assembly.

This is worsened by Zambia’s serious concerns over the funding of infrastructure in and around Victoria Falls, and in particular the conference centre set to host the meeting on the Zimbabwean side.

United States Ambassador to Zambia, Mark Storella last week sent alarm bells as he spoke to journalists, alluding to the fact that a possible violent election in Zimbabwe would bring doom to the August convention set for Victoria Falls.

Sadly, while the Zambian government is said to be doing well-coordinating resources towards the assembly’s preparations, in Zimbabwe, responsible ministers of Tourism and Finance have been at each other’s throat after Treasury revealed it had no funds for the major event.

Tendai Biti, the Finance minister says Walter Mzembi, as Tourism minister should instead coordinate efforts in which private entities have to pull resources to fund construction of the conference centre and other supporting infrastructure.

Mzembi has complained through the media saying while Zambia has received $20 million towards preparations, “Zimbabwe has not received a single dollar from Treasury.”

Treasury had initially promised $6 million towards UNWTO preparations off the total budget of $11,9 million, but nothing has materialised save for pledges from the corporate sector, with Mbada Diamonds promising $2,5 million.

As we fast approach the assembly, we urge the responsible ministers to work together so they can
coordinate funds towards infrastructure for the assembly.

Already, UNWTO has assisted Zimbabwe in drafting a Tourism Master Plan (TMP) that is expected to double tourist arrivals and increase the sector’s economic contribution by 2015.

There are positives to the UNWTO General Assembly being hosted in Zimbabwe as the result of TMP is expected to adopt a fast-track strategy that would see arrivals grow to five million in 2015 from the current 2,2 million.

During this period, the sector should subsequently create 150 000 new jobs and reach 450 000 jobs compared to the current 300 000. - Staff Writer

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