The Herald (Harare)

Zimbabwe: Elections Won't Disrupt UNWWTO - Mzembi

Zimbabwe should hold its elections as scheduled so that it prepares for the successful co-hosting of the United Nations World Tourism Organisation General Assembly, a Cabinet minister has said.

In an interview recently, Tourism and Hospitality Industry Minister Walter Mzembi dismissed fears that the forthcoming elections would disrupt preparations for the general assembly.

Zimbabwe and Zambia will in August next year host the 20th Session of the UNWTO General Assembly in Victoria Falls.

Stakeholders in the industry had expressed concern over suspected disruptions of preparations.

The industry also indicated that tourists had cancelled bookings made for March when Zimbabwe is expected to hold national elections.

"There are growing concerns and conflicting positions on the impact of elections on the sector.

"Although officials and industry are entitled to their opinions in a democracy such as ours, the official position is that the sooner we have elections the better for the sector.

"The traditional month of March, without usurping presidential prerogatives on the matter, is the most ideal," he said.

Minister Mzembi said holding early elections would allow Zimbabwe sufficient time for healing and repositioning ahead of the general assembly.

"It will be a unique branding opportunity for a post-election Government.

"President Mugabe has said as much, that we needed to keep our 2013 calendar clear of elections when he was calling for them last year and in 2012."

Minister Mzembi said there were other challenges facing the industry.

"The sector's pricing of products leaves them out of reach of the domestic market and pricing is a national emergency problem which needs a holistic response.

"A dollar in Zimbabwe carries the purchasing weight or parity of a rand in South Africa, and this can't be allowed to go on unchecked."

Minister Mzembi urged authorities to deal with challenges faced at Zimbabwe's ports of entry.

"Our visa regime is not friendly to travel. Let's fix our Sadc uni-visa first.

"Statistics already show that 89 percent of our arrivals are intra-Africa. So why not make that even easier for ourselves?

"Business tourism is being frustrated by our visa regime, which is too bureaucratic, lengthy and expensive and literally discourages travel into Zimbabwe," said Minister Mzembi.

He called for a lasting solution to issues affecting Air Zimbabwe.

"Market accessibility cannot be overemphasised," he said.

Minister Mzembi said only elections could solve the policy gridlock that has characterised this Government.

"Fiscal prioritisation of other sectors like tourism, which has clearly been lacking in the current Government, would then be clarified by having elections," he said.

Minister Mzembi said Zimbabwe would receive a projected three million visitors in 2013.

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