28 January 2010

Zimbabwe: World Cup Benefits Exaggerated - BCZ

HOTELIERS and tourism companies have for years been in a public relations overdrive to illustrate the benefits of a Fifa World Cup tourney to be hosted by South Africa in a few months' time. Zimbabwe Tourism Authority (ZTA) is one such entity at the centre of the World Cup hype. ZTA and many others had hoped to see sports tourism spilling into Zimbabwe while hoteliers hoped for packed room occupancies.

Soon, with the soccer tournament in the midst, Zimbabwe could be oiling its public relations machine again to run the final lap.

But the Business Council of Zimbabwe (BCZ) feels the excitement has been misplaced at least. At worst, the benefits could have been "exaggerated".

So far none of the participating teams has given a commitment that it would use Zimbabwe as a training camp. Across the border, it is publicity galore. The SABC, the official FIFA World Cup broadcaster, has begun a countdown.

And understandably so, South Africa is where the soccer showcase is happening. But Zimbabwean media, particularly the state broadcaster, ZBH, has caught the contagion aided by hoteliers and tourism authorities keen on cashing in on an anticipated tourism boom.

South Africa is expected to reap billions.

The BCZ president, Victor Gapare, believes Zimbabwe has been exaggerating the benefit of the tournament.

Instead, he said Zimbabwe should focus on fundamental issues such as infrastructure, education, and agriculture.

"The view expressed was that the benefit of the soccer World Cup 2010 has tended to be exaggerated. Secondly, the World Cup is happening in South Africa, and not in Zimbabwe; and not one football team has up to now firmly confirmed using Zimbabwe as training base.

"The council felt there should be more energy put in attending to more fundamental issues such as infrastructure, education and agriculture."

Instead, Zimbabwe can use the tournament that will last for almost two months, to market Southern Africa and put it on the international tourism map, BCZ says.

He was commenting on the state of the countries business sectors.

BCZ also noted that airline tickets for the tournament were "heavily priced" and above normal rates.

Gapare said: "It was observed that the airline tickets for the soccer World Cup tournament period are heavily priced above normal rates and this could affect travel costs to and within South Africa."

On the political front, BCZ said the political situation was not helping much as political parties -- Zanu PF and the two MDCs -- were still to iron out outstanding global political agreement issues.

Analysts did not see the negotiators agreeing on any major concessions. Rather, they anticipated that the three principals -- Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, President Robert Mugabe and Deputy Premier Arthur Mutambara -- would be behaving themselves ahead of the football tournament. After the soccer tournament, it would be back to the negotiating table.

This was because South Africa didnot want to see Zimbabwe's politics overshadow its moment of glory.

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