They say fortune knocks once and for Zimbabwe that opportunity is the chance to host the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) General Assembly next year.
It’s not every year that a country, especially in Africa, gets an opportunity to host such a global event.
The 186-member UNWTO General Assembly is an important global event.
There can be no bigger event on the tourism calendar than the assembly.
The General Assembly is the principal gathering of the UNWTO that meets every two years to consider the budget and programme of work of the United Nations specialised agency on tourism.
Claims in recent weeks that Zimbabwe could have misled the global tourism body to win the bid to host the convention made sad reading.
When South Africa won the bid to host the football World Cup in 2006, Zimbabwe pledged to do everything possible to benefit from the global spectacle but nothing came out of it.
In 2000, the country lost its bid to Nigeria and Ghana to host the African Cup of Nations due to sloppiness in preparing for the continental football tournament.
This time we hope this will not be repeated. That perception builds reality is true.
For over a decade, all the country has received is a barrage of negative publicity.
And now is the time to smart up and let go the bad-boy tag.
With proper leadership all hope is not yet lost.
Zimbabwe Tourism Authority (ZTA) chief executive officer Karikoga Kaseke on Tuesday criticised recent utterances by Tourism and Hospitality Industry secretary Sylvester Maunganidze that the country lied to win the bid to host the global event describing them as “political”.
“I see this lie by the permanent secretary as political,” Kaseke said.
“He thinks by lying it can turn against the minister. I think it’s not good to give such a damning lie. We as ZTA and the whole industry we are fully behind our minister.”
If there is politics at play as suggested by Kaseke, then it is most unfortunate.
It is time Hospitality and Tourism minister Walter Mzembi gathered his lieutenants in the tourism industry so that they can put their house in order as a matter of urgency.
Maunganidze told the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Environment and Tourism recently that the country lied to win the bid to co-host the UNWTO General Assembly next year.
“If certain things do not happen, it is because we have a Siamese twin (Zambia) who is handcuffed across the river and we breathe the same oxygen unfortunately,” Maunganidze said.
While Maunganidze could have caught some of his colleagues off-guard, there is also no doubt there could be some grain of truth in what he said.
It is unfortunate that as a country we have not learnt to accept the truth, especially when it casts us in the negative light.
There is so much at stake for a country so desperate for foreign currency inflows, hence there is need to put our act together.
This is an opportunity for the country to showcase not only its tourist attractions, but other economic facets that potential investors could be interested in.
What is disturbing is the lack of a clear vision of what the country intends to do to make the
UNWTO event a success that it should be.
There are conflicting messages to developments on the ground in terms of progress.
Failure to estimate the number of delegates expected to attend the function also leaves a lot to be desired.
On one hand we are told the event will bring more than 4 000 and on the other it’s 2 000 delegates.
Zimbabwe should be concentrating on key issues such as upgrading Victoria Falls Airport, revamping water and sewer reticulation systems and resurfacing roads rather than trying to score cheap political points.
Whatever is happening in the ministry, it’s time Mzembi provided leadership and direction to the sector as he has done since he took over the portfolio before the issue gets out of hand.
It is critical that we do not let this one-in-a-lifetime opportunity slip away. Tourism is about image and as a country there is need to put our house in order.
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