TOURISM minister Walter Mzembi says the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) general assembly co-hosted by Zimbabwe and Zambia last month left a legacy of tangible infrastructural benefits in addition to redeeming the image of the country.
In an interview with the Zimbabwe Independent recently, Mzembi cited the US$150 million upgrading of the Victoria Falls International Airport and the overhauling of roads, water reticulation and sewerage systems as some of the tangible benefits the resort town gained from the conference.
“In addition to upgrading roads, water, sewer and lighting systems, Victoria Falls is now a cyber-city with excellent internet facilities,” said Mzembi.
“There were also huge improvements to the hospitality infrastructure amounting to US$16 million made possible by the government’s decision to introduce statutory instruments that facilitated duty-free imports. I will push for the extension of the instruments that are a great benefit to the tourism sector,” he said.
Mzembi said there were also intangible but equally significant benefits, especially Zimbabwe’s assumption of the presidency of the UNWTO as well as the chair of the African Commission, placing the country in a position to influence the agenda on important issues affecting tourism.
In addition Mzembi said the UNWTO also represented a huge endorsement of Zimbabwe as a brand, especially in the context of the decade-long pariah status the country had endured after its fallout with Western countries over alleged human rights violations and absence of the rule of law.
“It was an excellent exercise in sanctions-busting. There was a huge endorsement for Brand Zimbabwe when you consider that over 120 countries were represented by 700 delegates and 900 affiliate organisations.”
He said Zimbabwe is now considered a safe destination as “no-one would have come if they thought it was a conflict area”.
Mzembi also said the successful hosting of the UNWTO conference soon after general elections clearly demonstrated that many countries had accepted the new Zanu PF government.
“This amounted to the endorsement of our elections and as such we fulfilled the essential governance pillar which is a significant aspect of nation-branding,” Mzembi said.