Zim scraps visa for UNWTO

HARARE - Zimbabwe will offer free visas for delegates attending the forthcoming six-day United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) general assembly in Victoria Falls.

The country is co-hosting the event from August 24 to 29 with neighbour Zambia, which has also suspended the visa requirement.

“We will be granting free visas to anybody who is coming to the general assembly at the point of entry. This includes delegates, their spouses and children,” Mzembi said.

Approximately 5 000 delegates are expected to attend the event, to be hosted in Africa for the second time after Senegal in 2005.

Mzembi told businessdaily that Zimbabwe will in the future work towards relaxing travel conditions for tourists to make the country an attractive tourism destination.

“High visa fees have a negative impact on the tourism sector and countries that have low visa fees or visa restrictions attract more tourists,” he said.

Zimbabwe and Zambia regard tourism as a key economic driver that will help create jobs and improve both countries’ international image.

Mzembi also noted that the UNWTO council last week gave the two southern African countries thumbs up on their preparations and collaborations towards the successful hosting of the assembly.

“The conference is good for Zimbabwe as it puts us on the world map and raises the tourism profile of the country. Zimbabwe will be known as one of the best destinations in the world. It is our hope that after this conference, we can attract many tourists,” he said.

Meanwhile, the Chinese government has donated a public address system worth nearly $1 million dollars to be used during the general assembly.

Han Bing, counsellor at the Chinese Economic and Commercial office said Zimbabwe should use the opportunity presented by the conference to market itself to the world.

“With such a big conference being held in Zimbabwe we would like to play our part in helping your country to successfully host the summit,” he said.

The sound equipment, which includes audio mixers, DVD players, a variety of speakers and microphones, is expected in Victoria Falls by June 30.

“Six technicians will also be coming here to assist with the installation and operation of the equipment during the UNWTO assembly,” Bing said.

Zimbabwe and Zambia won the joint bid to co-host the high-profile tourism event at the 19th session in Seoul, South Korea, in October 2011 after braving stiff competition from world tourism business giants such as Russia and Japan.

The conference is expected to attract 155 member States from around the world and over 400 affiliate members from the private sector. - John Kachembere

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