March 12, 2012
The United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) Secretary General, Taleb Rifai is set to visit Zimbabwe and Zambia next month to see how the two countries are faring with preparations for the body’s general assembly meeting in Victoria Falls next year.
Zimbabwe and Zambia last year won the bid to co-host the 20th session of the UNWTO meeting in the resort town of Victoria Falls.
The confirmation of the visit was made on the sidelines of the world’s leading tourism and travel fair, ITB Berlin which ended on Sunday.
Rifai met Tourism and Hospitality Industry minister, Walter Mzembi and Zambian Minister of Foreign Affairs and Tourism.
Announcing his historic visit to the two countries Rifai said his visit is the highest level of re-engagement between the two countries and the UN agency which specialises in tourism.
“This visit will also be political, let’s use it to raise awareness and build excitement around the continent and beyond for the next General Assembly. Even the general public should have interest in this important event,” he said.
Rifai expressed his desire to meet all tourism key stakeholders including government, private sector, legislators, the media and civil society during his official visit. He said he was impressed by the report he received from the UNWTO inspection team that assessed facilities and progress in Zambia and Zimbabwe early this month.
“We received with satisfaction the news that the inspection team is happy with preparations to date. We look forward to all preparations being concluded satisfactorily ahead of the General Assembly,” said Rifai.
However, he said that it is important that all outstanding bilateral issues between Zambia and Zimbabwe would have been finalised by the time of the visit. Zimbabwe wants to use the UN meeting to market the country as a safe tourist destination.
Analysts say accessibility would militate against the country from reaping the benefits associated with such meetings. The country’s airline, Air Zimbabwe is in the intensive care unit. This means that visitors for the meeting have to go via South Africa and then fly to Victoria Falls. If Air Zimbabwe was operating, delegates would fly to Zimbabwe and then connect to the resort town.