10 February 2013

Zimbabwe: Mzembi Panics Over Poor UNWTO Preparations

ZIMBABWE risks losing the co-hosting of the prestigious United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) general assembly because of poor preparations, sources in the tourism sector have revealed.

The fear of having the premier event snatched away from Zimbabwe has jolted Tourism and Hospitality Industry minister Walter Mzembi into action, though a little bit too late as the effects of poor preparations are imminent.

Five months before the event, the country is still to liberalise its airspace and implement a visa-friendly system, update the airport and other infrastructure to international standards.

The country's coffers are also empty. A fortnight ago, Finance minister Tendai Biti revealed that the country, endowed with mineral resources, only had US$217 left in its bank account.

A panicking Mzembi last week said he was set to embark on a diplomatic offensive to African countries meant to ensure there is a positive turnout at the assembly meeting in Victoria Falls and Livingstone, Zambia in August this year.

He said the sojourn would take him to the African Union Commission for it to play a leading role as the event is an African baby.

"The success of the General Assembly is measured by the turnout of the delegates. Both Zimbabwe and Zambia will have door-to-door campaigns to ensure that there is maximum turnout," he said.

There are fears that the country might fail to host the event. Such fears were heightened after Mzembi met Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai in a closed door meeting on Thursday.

Mzembi said yesterday he had got commitment from Biti on the sidelines of Tuesday's Cabinet meeting.

"We need a total of US$12 million to say that we are safe and I got commitment from Biti that everything is under control," he said.

Fears abound that UNWTO might move the meeting from Zimbabwe due to the slow pace in releasing the money.

Mzembi insists the country was spot-on as per bid specification and has to release money for the appointment of a conference organiser.

"There are no such fears. That possibility [of moving the meeting from Zimbabwe] is not there at all. We have gone past that stage and it is now more to do with our mindset in terms of what Africans want to be put on the agenda," Mzembi said.

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