By BRIAN HATYOKA
ZAMBIA and Zimbabwe are located in the heart of pristine Southern Africa and the two countries are joint custodians of a unique peace of the world’s natural heritage, the Victoria Falls.
Livingstone city on the Zambian side and Victoria Falls town on the Zimbabwean side share the border on the Zambezi River and the ‘mighty’ Victoria Falls which is One of the Seven Wonders of the World.
In addition to the unique Victoria Falls experience, the two countries offer other enriching attractions and activities which enhance the visitor experience to the destination, the world’s most peaceful destinations.
Livingstone and Victoria Falls towns share an excellent wildlife and have a brilliant road network making it easy to connect to places or destinations within the Southern Africa region.
Each of the two towns has an international airport and they the capacity of landing aircraft up to the size of 767-800 and packing up to 10 mid-size aircraft at a time.
Together, the two towns have the capacity to host an international meeting of more than 2, 000 delegates in terms of accommodation, amenities, air and ground handling facilities among others.
In terms of banking, the services are excellent in the two towns and are well complimented with various Bureau De Changes while the hotels generally accept all major international credit and debit cards.
The warmth of its people and diverse cultures make it unbeatable holiday experience and English is the official language in the two countries.
It is in view of the above background that Zambia and Zimbabwe are currently bidding to co-host the 20th session of the 186 member United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) general assembly in Livingstone and Victoria Falls town in 2013.
The general assembly is the principal gathering of the UNWTO which meets after every two years to consider the budget and programme of work of the United Nations specialised agency on tourism.
Delegates to the general assembly are drawn from the six regional commissions of the UNWTO from Africa, the Americas, the East and Pacific Europe, the Middle East and South Asia.
The proposed venues for the event would be Elephant Hills Resort in Victoria Falls town and the Convention Centre at Royal Livingstone Hotel, both are five star facilities.
Accommodation would be furnished by Royal Livingstone Hotel and 3-star Zambezi Sun Hotel and would complimented by a range of hotels such as four star David Livingstone safari lodge as well as Chrismar and Protea Hotels.
A week ago, the two countries finalised a joint bid and agreed upon a document which is designed to meet the UNWTO specifications on hosting the general assembly.
The two countries have put together a formidable document and supporting collateral which will be submitted to the UNWTO, in Spain, Madrid this week for consideration.
Further, the two countries have devised a lobby strategy to garner support from the UNWTO member states in the run up to the final bid selection.
The technical committees from the Ministry of Tourism, Environment and Natural Resources of Zambia headed by the permanent secretary Peter Mumba and the Ministry of Tourism and Hospitality Industry of Zimbabwe head by the permanent secretary Sylvester Maunganidze had been meeting in Victoria Falls town and Livingstone over the last three weeks to develop and finalise the bid document to co-host the UNWTO general assembly.
Zambia’s Tourism, Environment and Natural resources permanent secretary Mr Mumba said the two countries were hopeful that their bid to jointly host the UNWTO general assembly in 2013 would be successful.
Mr Mumba said the two countries were positive of winning the bid because many guests worldwide were interested in viewing the Victoria Falls which is one of the Seven Wonders of the World.
“We are working very hard to host the UNWTO general assembly in 2013 because the hosting of this event will mean a lot to the two countries and the entire Africa in terms of tourism promotion.
In terms of the proposed budget to host the event, we are still working on it and so far we have reached an advanced stage,” Mr Mumba said.
He urged the media to help the two countries in ensuring that the bid was successful by highlighting the potential which Zimbabwe and Zambia had to host the event.
“The Zimbabwean and Zambian media have an important role in helping to lobby for the hosting of the UNWTO general assembly by projecting the two countries in a positive manner,” Mr Mumba said.
Zimbabwe tourism and hospitality industry permanent secretary Dr Maunganidze said the two countries would visit others in Africa and across the continent to seek for support in bidding for the hosting of the event.
Dr Maunganidze said at the same media briefing in Livingstone on Tuesday that the bid document would be finalised this week and sent to Spain next week.
He said the hosting of the event at Victoria Falls town was important because it would largely help the two countries to market one of the world’s natural wonders to the entire world and attract many tourists.
Once the bid was successful, about 186 countries would be in attendance while more than 1, 000 delegates would be accommodated at Victoria Falls town on the Zimbabwean side and at Livingstone on the Zambian side.
Livingstone Tourism Association (LTA) chairperson Kingsley Lilamono said the planned co-hosting of the 20th session of the 186 member UNWTO general assembly in Livingstone and Victoria Falls town would raise Zambia’s tourism profile abroad,
Mr Lilamono said if the bid to co-host the UNWTO general assembly was successful, Zambia’s tourism products would be highly marketed at the event world hence raising the country tourism profile internationally.
He said tourism infrastructure would also be upgraded which would in turn increase the bed and conference capacity in Zambia’s Tourist Capital.
“Prior to the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, a lot of infrastructures were put up in that country and the same will happen to Zambia if we will be successful in hosting the UNWTO general assembly.
As tourism operators from Livingstone and Victoria Falls town, we are excited about this event because we are able to jointly host more than 3, 000 delegates in our hotels and lodges,” Mr Lilamono said.
So-far Zambia and Zimbabwe are well positioned and better placed to co-host the 20th session of the 186 member UNWTO general assembly in Livingstone and Victoria Falls town in 2013.
There is therefore need for the media fraternity in Zambia and Zimbabwe to positively rally behind the joint bid to bring the UNWTO general assembly to Africa and particularly to Southern Africa for the first time.