Bulawayo — The forthcoming United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) general assembly slated for the resort town of Victoria Falls in August has created a lot of excitement in Matabeleland as locals anticipate a financial bonanza from the tourism jamboree.
Zambia and Zimbabwe signed a trilateral agreement with the UNWTO secretary-general, Taleb Rifai a fortnight ago for the two southern African countries to co-host the world event next year.
Delegates from 186 UNWTO member countries are expected to descend on Victoria Falls and Livingstone for the five-day event.
The UNWTO general assembly, the second to be held on African soil after Senegal, will roar into life from August 24-29.
There are a number of economic benefits to be derived from hosting the convention for the two countries.
The convention presents Zimba-bwe with a unique opportunity not only to reposition itself but also to rebrand its image in the eyes of the international community.
Hotels, lodges, transport operators, retailers and other tourism facilities are envisaged to reap huge financial benefits from the visitors descending on Zimbabwe from around the globe.
Brian Nyakutombwa of the Hospitality Association of Zimbabwe, said players in the hotel industry in Matabeleland were excited about the event.
"We are very excited about that as it is going to put us on the map before, during and even after the assembly," he said.
Nkosilathi Jiyane, Victoria Falls mayor, said residents of the resort town would be empowered in terms of business, employment opportunities and infrastructural development.
"Major roads leading to the town are going to be resurfaced while the Victoria Falls International Airport as well as the Hwange Safari Lodge airport would be upgraded. To me, this will actually change the face of Matabeleland forever," he said.
Preparations for the milestone event are well on course with contractors having submitted tenders for the construction of the convention centre and other critical infrastructure worth about US$300 million. China is willing to fund the entire project on condition that the tenders are awarded to Chinese companies.
The convention centre, which is designed to accommodate between 3 000 and 5 000 people, will have a shopping mall, a three-star and five-star hotels.
Sithokozile Mathuthu, Matabelel-and North Provincial Governor also alluded to the excitement in the province about the general assembly coming to Victoria Falls.
"People are excited about that as it is going to be a landmark event not only for Matabeleland North alone as a province or even Zimbabwe but for the whole of Africa," Mathuthu said.