UNWTO: Mzembi extends begging bowl

HARARE - In last minute attempts to raise funds for the United Nations World Tourism (UNWTO) general assembly hosting preparations, Zimbabwe has sent an “SOS” to corporates appealing for funds.

Zimbabwe is expected to co-host the premier UNWTO event from August 24 to 29 with Zambia in Victoria Falls.

Last week, Tourism minister Walter Mzembi extended a begging bowl to the corporate world, asking the institutions to chip in with at least $10 million in sponsorships.

“Areas that need support include a pre-fabricated semi-permanent structure at the cost of $1,25 million while the Victoria Falls airport requires close to $200 000 to complete its refurbishment,” Mzembi said.

While Zambia has nearly completed its preparations with the government allocating $20 million for the exercise, Zimbabwe’s preparations have been proceeding at a snail pace due to lack of funding.

Mzembi asked the corporates to sponsor in various forms, promising them to benefit from free advertising during the five-day conference.

“We have slots for five companies to sponsor us $500 000 each in our platinum category and 10 slots for firms to sponsor our gold category at the tune of $250 000. In our silver sponsorship category we are targeting 15 companies to give us $150 000 and 20 companies to fill our bronze category at the tune of $100 000 each,” he said.

The minister noted that other areas that required financial support included the setting up of a traditional village — where small to medium size enterprises can sell their artefacts well after the general assembly — which was proposed by government to be created as a legacy project.

The project requires $224 000.

This comes as industry experts say Zimbabwe has a lot to do if is to successfully pull off a uniquely African conference.

However, Mzembi remains adamant.

He argues that there is ample time for the corporates to intervene and complete the entire infrastructure development and upgrade by mid-August.

“I am happy that the Constitutional Court has agreed to the July 31, 2013 date for elections. This is because the world over elections affect the economy and the earlier we finish with them the better for our country,” he said.

The minister noted that if free and credible elections are held in a peaceful manner then the post-election government will have enough time to rebrand for the future.

Zimbabwe is set to hold watershed elections later this month pitting longtime rivals President Robert Mugabe and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai to end a five-year uneasy coalition consummated in 2008.

“Policy contradictions in the inclusive government have been grid-locking business and its time we put this behind us and start working on attracting investment and trade into the country,” Mzembi said.

This is the second time the UNWTO general assembly is being held in Africa after Senegal hosted it in 2007.

More than 1 200 delegates, among them Tourism ministers from 186 countries, captains of the hospitality industry, tourist wholesalers and stakeholders are expected to attend the assembly.

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