HARARE – With less than 50 weeks to go before the country co-hosts the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) general assembly with Zambia next year, all eyes are on the two neighbouring countries with particular focus on their state of preparedness.
The general assembly is held once every two years and brings together key tourism players including government ministers from across the world.
If all members are given a fair opportunity to host the event, it will be 400 years before Zimbabwe gets another opportunity to bring the conference on its soil.
This gives the two host nations a platform to market their countries as good tourist destinations and brands.
In the case of Zimbabwe, it is an opportunity to change the bad boy image that has dominated international media circles since 2000 when the country embarked on its fast track land reform programme and subsequent disputed elections.
The preparations have attracted attention at the highest level in government, with President Robert Mugabe and his Zambian counterpart Michael Sata recently signing a memorandum of understanding to jointly host the general assembly.
Starting this week, the Daily News will run a weekly update which focuses on key areas and events that have direct impact on the 20th session of the UNWTO general assembly to be held between August 24 and 29, 2013.
These areas range from transport and infrastructure, accommodation and hotel standards as well as security issues.
While the event is only for five days, it is a platform for the tourism industry to showcase its products at the highest level.
Players are expected to benefit improved tourist traffic in preparation for the conference and after it ends.
Last week Zimbabwe Tourism Authority (ZTA) hosted a tourism all-stakeholders meeting convened in Harare to discuss problems that are bedevilling the sector especially ahead of the UNWTO general assembly.
The country is expected to refurbish its Victoria Falls Airport and build a new 4 kilometres runway to handle larger aircraft as well as resurface the Victoria Falls bridge strip at a cost estimated around $1 million.
Hotels are also anticipated to meet world class standards ahead of the event with human resource skills development exercise lined up.
In May ZTA successfully hosted the Africa Travel Association annual congress, which was a precursor to next year’s big conference.
The UNWTO is the United Nations agency responsible for the promotion of responsible, sustainable and universally accessible tourism.
As the leading international organisation in the field of tourism, UNWTO promotes tourism as a driver of economic growth.
UNWTO said, with a record 467 million tourists travelling in the first half of 2012, international tourism remains firmly on track to reach one billion tourists by the end of the year.
In 2011, international tourist arrivals reached 990 million.