Zim’s UNWTO preparations gather momentum

ZIMBABWE’S preparations for the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) general assembly are gathering pace with new confidence arising from Treasury’s release of part funding for the critical conference this week, businessdigest has learnt.

Taurai Mangudhla/Hazel Ndebele

Highly placed sources on Wednesday said the Ministry of Finance had already paid for some key activities and is, by end of this week, expected to release up to US$2 million towards the general assembly which Zimbabwe co-host with Zambia end of August.

Tourism minister Walter Mzembi refused to confirm the amounts, saying it was too early to give exact figures, but said Treasury had disbursed cash towards critical invoices for the event.

“We have already started eating significantly into the UNWTO state budget which is a major relief for us,” Mzembi said.

“Government has actually started releasing money now and we have paid some critical invoices for travel tickets for the UNWTO team, fees for the professional conference organiser and the conference solution.”

The move is expected to bring new confidence to the UNWTO secretariat and conference delegates weeks after the private sector undertook to fully fund the event.

Early June, Mzembi said he was unfazed by Treasury’s reluctance to fund preparations for the general assembly to be held from August 24 to 29, saying the private sector had extended tremendous support and adequate resources had been mobilised.

Zimbabwe requires about US$11 million for the successful hosting of the general assembly.

According to the budget, US$6, 5 million is to be channeled towards core general assembly activities while US$5, 2 million will go into infrastructure development for the host town.

Earlier this week, Mzembi met industry players to discuss his term of office as well as future policy trajectory in what was seen to be his farewell event ahead of elections that are slated for next week.

Mzembi said the upcoming polls are a rebranding opportunity as governance is among the six pillars to a country’s brand image.

Giving an update of preparations for the general assembly, he said everything was in place with conference facilities being constructed by a South African company.

Mzembi also said professional conference organisation (PCO) is being done by a South African firm in partnership with a Zimbabwean company. The tender for the PCO was only for US$300 000.

Mzembi said the National Tourism Policy which has three substantive areas specifically that of tourism development related issues, tourism facilitation in Zimbabwe and the broader institutional framework, will be unveiled after the upcoming general elections slated for July 31 and provides a road map for the sector for the next 15 years.

He also said Zanu PF plans to extend Statutory Instrument 124 of 2011 and 199 of 2012 for another five years. The instruments were enacted for duty free exemptions on tourism inputs.

“One thing which wasn’t explicitly shared in the manifesto is that I have proposed for an extension of the two instruments because you have not yet fully benefited from them as Finance minister Tendai Biti never understood matters to do with tourism and as such there was a policy gridlock which filtered through to administration gridlocks at the level of the civil servants.”