Zim should capitalise on UNWTO: US

HARARE - The United States (US) says Zimbabwe should capitalise on the forthcoming United Nations World Tourism Authority general assembly to boost its economy.

Zimbabwe is co-hosting the event — expected to attract nearly 5 000 visitors — with its neighbour Zambia from August 24 to 29 in Victoria Falls and Livingstone respectively.

Bruce Wharton, the US Ambassador to Zimbabwe said both countries should use the key event “as a springboard for economic growth, good governance, and sustainable wildlife conservation.”

Between May 21 and 23, Wharton embarked on a bicycle ride between Zimbabwe and Zambia’s border to promote tourism and environmental conservation in the Victoria Falls-Livingstone area.

“We wanted to shine the light on both sides of the Zambezi River in advance of the World Tourism Organisation Congress to both encourage Americans to come and explore this part of the world and to emphasise the connection between conservation and tourism…and economic development,” he said.

“Our government is deeply interested in promoting strong democratic institutions in both countries and in supporting strong sustainable economic development.  I think tourism has got to be one of the drivers of both Zimbabwe’s and Zambia’s economic development,” said Wharton.

The Bike Across Borders initiative was implemented jointly by the American Embassies in Harare and Lusaka with the two ambassadors, Wharton and Mark Storella, taking the lead.

The August event represents the second time that Africa will have hosted the UNWTO General Assembly, after Senegal in 2005. This is the first time the UN WTO General Assembly has been co-hosted by neighboring countries. The diplomats were optimistic about the success of the impending convention.

“I see very much that on both sides of the border you face the same kind of challenges and the same kinds of opportunities. I was very gratified to see during this visit that the two sides are cooperating to prepare for this international congress that is coming up,” said Storella.

According to the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority, Americans make up the largest group of non-African international tourists to Zimbabwe. - Eric Chiriga, Business Editor

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