THE Minister of Tourism and Hospitality Industry, Walter Mzembi says there has not been sufficient fiscal space to finance the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) General Assembly, leaving the ministry to seek help from the private sector.
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The 20th session of the UNWTO is co-hosted by Zimbabwe and Zambia in Victoria Falls and Livingstone respectively from August 24 to 29.
Mzembi said last week that his ministry had put a budget of US$12 million to finance preparations for the meeting but nothing had been disbursed by Treasury amid growing national commitments.
“There hasn’t been sufficient space for the General Assembly within the fiscal environment,” Mzembi said at the handover of the communications command centre by Econet Wireless Zimbabwe on Friday.
“We have an election that requires US$132 million. We have just come off a referendum that also gobbled quite a lot of millions,” said Mzembi.
“We had Copac for over four years in addition to other recurrent national processes and issues on our budget — food security, water, electricity and within all those competing demands you place the demands of a General Assembly.
“That has prompted us to look outside fiscus to people with goodwill for an event like this.”
Econet handed over the command centre equipped with state- of-the-art computers and high- speed internet.
The mobile operator is also building another centre in Victoria Falls that would be ready by next month.
In addition to that, the country’s leading mobile operator has also put up 15 base stations and micro stations in Victoria Falls to allow efficient communication during and after the meeting.
The World Tourism Organisation is the leading international organisation in the field of travel and tourism.
It serves as a global forum for tourism policy issues. Its membership includes 138 countries and more than 350 affiliates.
‘Victoria Falls to be a cyber city’
Minister of Tourism and Hospitality Industry, Walter Mzembi said Econet had responded to a fundamental need in the hosting of a General Assembly — that Zimbabwe host a paperless General Assembly in mind with the green environment that Victoria Falls symbolises.
“The General Assembly prescribes that Victoria Falls be a cyber city by the time we commence activities on August 24.
“We are required to declare Victoria Falls a cyber city. It’s a condition that we must answer to the General Assembly secretariat,” Mzembi said.
Isaiah Nyangari, Econet’s chief marketing officer said on the partnership with the ministry of Tourism and Hospitality Industry:
“It was an easy decision for Econet, we saw a lot of opportunities; an opportunity to showcase what Zimbabwe has.
“We feel we have the infrastructure to take Zimbabwe forward. We have invested in optic fibre and mobile network,” he said.
Next month’s UNWTO meeting has been equated to the tourism’s World Cup with the co-hosts capitalising on the spin-offs arising from the successful hosting of the event.
This is the second time that Africa will be hosting the tourism event in six years after Senegal in 2007.
Hundreds of delegates representing local government, tourism associations and private sector companies, including airlines, hotel groups and tour operators, are expected to attend the event.
On a rotational basis, Zimbabwe can only host the General Assembly in 2357.