HARARE – The South African government has committed to assisting Zimbabwe in successfully hosting the forthcoming United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) General Assembly, the country’s trade minister Elizabeth Thabethe said.
Zimbabwe is co-hosting the event, set for August 2013 in the resort town of Victoria Falls, with Zambia.
In an interview in Bulawayo, Thabethe said the South African government was “more than willing to chip in.”
“South Africa (SA) is going to do what it can to make sure the event will be successful. When SA hosted the World Cup 2010 it was not an SA event, but we coined it is an African event because it was happening for the first time in Africa so we are going to play part as neighbours,” said Thebethe.
Vusi Mavimbela, SA ambassador to Zimbabwe, added that; “The Zimbabwe government has already approved that the SA Airways (SAA) must become the preferred carrier for the UNWTO and the SA government has already agreed to that.”
Mavimbela said that SAA would play a key role in transporting delegates to the event as the airline covers the widest routes in Africa.
The event is expected to attract more than 5 000 visitors from 180 countries.
“We are going to make sure everyone coming for the event with SAA would reach in time,” said Mavimbela.
However, both Zimbabwe and Zambia need significant money to host the event.
Currently preparations for the global event are ongoing, but financial challenges are hampering the progress.
Last week, Zimbabwe Stock Exchange-listed diversified group Meikles Limited announced that it was courting an international investor to help spruce up its hotels ahead of the UNWTO event.
Local tourism stakeholders are set to benefit immensely from the event.
“We are in discussions with a large international hotel group, who will partner us in these new developments,” John Moxon, Meikles group chairperson, said in the group’s financials for the half year to September 30, 2012.
Moxon said shareholders will be advised of further progress at the opportune time. – BULAWAYO CORRESPONDENT