Event backgroundIn August 2013, Zambia and Zimbabwe are set to co-host the world’s biggest tourism assembly, the United Nations World Tourism Organisation’s (UNWTO) 20th General Assembly. Up to 4 000 participants are expected to attend from the 180 member countries, making this one of the most prestigious events of the year. Zambia and Zimbabwe have a rich history and share a world heritage site, namely the Victoria Falls which is the biggest waterfalls in the world.
The UNWTO General Assembly is to be held in Zimbabwe’s Victoria Falls town and Zambia’s Livingstone town. This is only the second time ever that the UNWTO General Assembly will be hosted in Africa, the first African country to host it being Senegal. It is however, the first time the conference is coming to Southern Africa making this a historical milestone.
Zambia’s President Michael Sata and Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe signed the Trilateral co-hosting Agreement in May 2012, on behalf of their respective countries, with the UNWTO Secretary General Taleb Rifai, signing on behalf of the world tourism organisation.
Event benefitsThis event poses many benefits to hosting countries. It usually attracts 186 ministers of tourism from across the globe as well as other international tourism stakeholders and media personnel, thereby raising the profiles of hosting countries. The exposure is permanent, making marketing of the hosting countries as a destination much easier. Furthermore, tourism, which is recognised as one of the fastest growing industries, offers the potential to create thousands of jobs. Many investors first come as tourists to a country before deciding to invest in it. The benefits do not stop at the end of the conference. Infrastructure development and improvement as a result of the conference go beyond the event date.
Preparing for the eventThe success of this UNWTO General Assembly will be largely dependent on the collective efforts by both countries in creating an environment that will be conducive for the enhancement of tourism. Concerns that need to be addressed before the conference include the need to make travelling across Africa more accessible than it currently is. There is also a need to improve infrastructure such as roads, lodge and hotel accommodation as well as security.
Giving an update on preparations for the UNWTO at the recent Africa Travel Association forum (ATA), Zambia’s Tourism and Arts Minister Sylvia Masebo said she was satisfied with the preparations, especially with infrastructure development such as health and water reticulation. She added that the Zambian Government is involving the local community in preparations so they are able to benefit from the UNWTO.
Ms. Masebo did however, note that the marketing aspect needed to be stepped up so as to encourage wider participation in the conference. Zimbabwe’s Minister of Tourism Walter Mzembi, also spoke about the importance of PR and developing ‘Brand Africa.’
In order to co-host the conference, Zimbabwe is said to be working on upgrading the Victoria Falls airport, revamping water and sewer reticulation systems, resurfacing roads and rehabilitating the hospital in the resort Victoria Falls town.
About UNWTOUNWTO is the United Nations agency responsible for the promotion of responsible, sustainable and universally accessible tourism. As the leading international organisation in the field of tourism, UNWTO promotes tourism as a driver of economic growth, inclusive development and environmental sustainability. It offers leadership and support to the sector in advancing knowledge and tourism policies worldwide.