The Herald (Harare)

24 August 2012

Zimbabwe: Let's Make UNWTO Indaba a Success!

ON this exact day next year, Zimbabwe and Zambia will co-host the historical 2013 United Nations World Tourism Organisation General Assembly, an event that the two countries will not be eligible to host again for the next 360 years.

The event brings 180 countries to Victoria Falls, the largest world gathering of countries in Zimbabwe since the Commonwealth Heads of State and Government Meeting held in the resort town, about two decades ago.

So with the 180 countries being members of the UNWTO, and the general assembly being held once every two years and each country being given its chance as per norm, it will take Zimbabwe more than three-and-a-half centuries to host the mega event again.

This means there will be many generations that will not see the UNWTO General Assembly on Zimbabwean soil for their entire life and so will their grand- children and great-grandchildren.

The current generation is therefore blessed to witness this mega event.

Again this is only the second time that the UNWTO General Assembly has been held on African soil, after Senegal held it in 2007.

It is fact not fiction that the hosting of the event is no longer reversible after the signing of the trilateral agreement between Zambia, UNWTO and Zimbabwe but what is at stake is national pride, ego, ethos and values.

The nation itself! Our nation! Our country! Zimbabwe, Zimbabwe, Zimbabwe! Our Zimbabwe!

I was part of the team that won the bid to co-host the mega event, that historical night in Goungju City in South Korea two years ago. We were chosen ahead of moneyed countries like Russia, Jordan and Qatar and as we celebrated the win, it was apparent that a lot of work had to be done.

Today, Friday August 24 2012 marks the beginning of the countdown to the final 12 months to the hosting of the event.

In such instances and for a country so much under the scrutiny of many detractors, the road might never be easy.

It is certainly bumpy, snaky, undulating and dotted with obstacles that require a united national interest.

That the tourism and hospitality industry in its entirety led by the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority is gathered in Victoria Falls, the venue of the mega event, to mark the final countdown to the hosting of the mega event is in itself a major show of this commitment.

It should send signals to Zimbabweans in their broad totality that we all need to rally the event and ring fence our national interests.

That the eyes of the world will be cast on us, is something that we do not need a soothsayer to tell us, hence the need to put up a memorable event.

We need something with a Zimbabwean flair, which we will all identify with and cherish for generations to come.

It therefore follows that wherever we are and whoever we are with in various capacities as Zimbabweans, we need to act and behave responsibly in order to enable all stakeholders to host the event as best as they can.

Our success or failure will determine the world's view on us and will determine which other major event we will be able to win the bid to host.

Our media, our politics, everything should be accountable to the national values that make us a proud Zimbabwe.

ZTA has made enough noise, they have shouted enough through adverts, road shows and music galas to hype the event and so has central Government but we still need to tie the loose ends, especially in the media where the preoccupation has been on negative issues.

In South Korea, where I attended the last UWTO General Assembly, there was unity of purpose within the media, the Government and stakeholders but in Zimbabwe the opposite is true.

The bid to host the 2013 UNWTO General Assembly was won premised on existing infrastructure that needed of course, sprucing up and not on yet-to-be-constructed structures.

Any other new structure is an additional and a signature of appreciation of the event, to remain as memorabilia.

The mega event will be at Elephant Hills Hotel where a tent will be pitched and that temporary structure has actually been agreed upon by UNWTO inspectorate. So, the hullabaloo about new structures and this and that is much ado about nothing.

We must move away from the syndrome of laughing at ourselves to that of believing in ourselves and in our ability to host the event. United in our various capacities, we can make the 2013 UNWTO General Assembly a success.

Let the countdown begin and let us be part of it and not watch from the sidelines.

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