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Hosts must give UNWTO positive coverage

Zimbabwe is the co-host of the United Nations World Tourism (UNWTO) conference scheduled for August 2013.

Sunday Opinion with Tafara Shumba

This global event will be hosted on the African soil for the second time since its inception. The first time it was held in Africa was in 2007 in Senegal. Zimbabwe’s chance of hosting the same event again will be probably after 300 years.

This alone is sufficient to show how much Zimbabwe has been honoured. It is, however, unfortunate that our media seem to be unaware of the importance of an event of such a magnitude.

The local media have been writing acres of negative aspects on the preparations of the event. The reportage borders on discrediting the capacity of the country in hosting this event. The crusade was dramatically upped in the run up to the assessment visit by the UNWTO inspection team.

It would help a lot if the local media could pluck a leaf from the manner that the UK media covered the Olympics in their country. The classic coverage epitomises the highest degree of responsible and patriotic journalism. The UK media showered the Olympics with positive coverage, starting with the preparations up to the closing ceremony.

The British media invested heavily in their coverage of the Olympics. The BBC, for instance, ensured that 52 million people, which is 90% of the UK population, watched the Olympics. In addition, the Corporation dedicated 26 channels to the Olympics. As a result, BBC won a gold medal for its coverage.

The BBC’s Director General was at one time forced to make public clarifications after it was alleged that he was unhappy at the emphasis that the corporation was putting on the Olympics to the exclusion of all else. He had to make these clarifications after a deafening outcry from the citizens.

These are the citizens who understand the importance of hosting international events.

Most newspapers ran special supplements and souvenir issues throughout the fortnight. Headline writers and sub-editors ran out of superlatives.

This paid dividends as their sales and advertising revenue drastically increased. The same can happen in this country in August 2013.

The hosting of the UNWTO General Assembly stands to benefit all and sundry, the media included. The benefits are political, economic and social.

The general assembly will provide Zimbabwe with an opportunity to market itself to the more than 4 000 delegates from 158 countries expected to attend. The assembly must prove that Zimbabwe is back on the map as a safe place to visit.

The mega event must be a time for the restoration of the national pride and ego. Over 100 countries will be there to endorse the national pride. The media should assist, as Walter Muzembi said, in the shaping of brand Zimbabwe by putting greater accent on positives.
The assembly is set to boost the country’s economy.

Tourism is one of the fastest growing industries in Zimbabwe. It is the second largest sector after mining, which contributes to the national purse. The general assembly will market the tourism potential in Zimbabwe and this will ensure an increase in the arrival of tourists.

Some economists have projected that Victoria Falls will generate more money during the assembly than it does in a year. Favourable publicity from the media will ensure that more delegates will prefer staying in Victoria Falls to Livingstone.

The media must, therefore, understand that it is not the infrastructure per se that will determine the success of this event. The type of reportage given to this event during this preparatory stage has a big role to play in the success or failure of this event.
The new facilities which are being put in place in Victoria Falls will be left behind for life after the assembly.

These facilities, especially the 5 000-seat conference centre, will boost Victoria Falls’ reputation as a world-class conferencing destination. The Victoria Falls folks can give testimony to this as they immensely benefited when CHOGM, which was hosted in the same area in the late 1990s. The raw water pumping system was revamped and the ablution facilities were constructed at the schools that hosted the delegates.

There are also employment opportunities for the locals who are providing much of the labour in the construction and refurbishment of facilities such as hospitals, roads, hotels and the airport among others. A lot more will be absorbed in the tourism and hospitality sector during the assembly.

Even farmers, vendors, the entertainment industry, transporters, retailers and many other sectors stand to accrue benefits from this event. The media themselves will realise an increase in sales and advertising revenue.

The media should be the goodwill ambassadors for Zimbabwe if maximum benefits are to be reaped from this event. Government should engage the media and impress upon them the importance of hosting this event.

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