Zimbabwe can expect to earn US$1,5 billion in tourism receipts by 2015 following the successful hosting of the United Nations World Tourism Organisation conference last month. Zimbabwe in August this year co-hosted the 20th edition of the UNWTO General Assembly with Zambia.
The general assembly was declared the best attended in the history of the organisation with a record 900 delegates from the media fraternity, 121 full delegates from member states, 140 delegates from all over the world, 49 foreign ministers and 750 other delegates.
ZTA chief executive officer Mr Karikoga Kaseke told New Ziana the benefits of hosting the conference were incalculable.
“On average it takes between one to two years to see the positive benefits of hosting such a big event, however, the biggest benefit is the endorsement of Zimbabwe as a safe destination.
“We expect to see the fruits of this endorsement maybe in 2015 where we anticipate receiving around three million tourists in international arrivals translated to US$1,5 billion in terms of tourism receipts,” he said.
Mr Kaseke said the endorsement had been the best so far Zimbabwe has ever had where the UNWTO had endorsed tourism.
He said the UNWTO General Assembly had not left the tourism sector in the country dead but livened up instead.
“We knew the general assembly was not an ongoing thing that is why we needed a host. Tourism has not died after the conference, but was left more alive in the sense that the impacts of tourism are going to be positive for a long time.
“When we were bidding we looked at the costs versus the benefits — not financial. Zimbabwe has now been baptized by the UNWTO as a safe destination meaning that any conference of any sort can be held here,” he added.
It was the first time that the UNWTO General Assembly was held in Southern Africa and the second time on the African continent after Senegal hosted it in 2007.
The event was a milestone for the global tourism body and its delegations of attending member states. The twin resort towns of Victoria Falls and Victoria Falls had the rare opportunity to showcase the mighty Victoria Falls – a World Heritage Site — to a global audience.
Mr Kaseke’s hopes should not end with endorsements following the UNWTO successful hosting though. The incoming ZanuPF has to strike a balance between anti-Western rhetoric and need to present Zimbabwe as a tourist destination. Although there are no figures at hand, Westerners still rank high in terms of having disposable cash to spent on tourism. Maybe it is high time President Mugabe and his team tone it down a bit so as to make Kaseke’s work easy. Those powers that be have to understand that words reach far these days. An irresponsible statement at a rally in Mudzi will stop a potential tourists in Singapore from coming to Victoria Falls. In the absence of real investment in manufacturing and other industries, tourism plays a huge part in job creation.