UNWTO inspectors from Madrid not impressed with Zambia, Zim preps

UNWTO inspectors from Madrid, Spain have just completed their mission to check on the progress of the UNWTO preparations by Zambia and Zimbabwe.  As expected, they have gone away unhappy that things are not in place as they were promised since their last visit.

Zambia and Zimbabwe are co-hosting the 20th UNWTO General Assembly from 24th August to 29th August, 2013 in Livingstone and Victoria Falls towns.  The UNWTO general assembly rotates among its 180-member states every two years. This is the second time the General Assembly is being hosted in Africa. Senegal was the first African country to host the tourism event.

According to the inspectors, they have never experienced such unpreparedness by the host nations at such a late hour. They have given the two countries one more chance to put the house in order. They will be back soon to follow up and if the homework is not properly executed, the 20th UNWTO General Assembly will be moved to Madrid.

The inspectors have described the Victoria Falls – Livingstone co-host venue as being the most attractive in comparison to all other previous host venues.  Successful co-hosting of the event will tremendously impact on the promotion of tourism to the destination. This will result in increased publicity and tourist arrivals in the region.

From the start, the preparations have not run smoothly.  Zimbabwe referred to Zambia as falling asleep and changing the Ministers and Permanent secretaries too often within a short time. This resulted in the then Permanent Secretary of Tourism Dr Sylvester Maunganidze being relieved of his position.  Below was his statement to Zimbabwe Parliaments Natural Resources, Environment and Tourism portfolio on 17th July, 2012:

HARARE – Governance issues in Zambia are affecting smooth preparation of the  20th session of the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO)  General Assembly which the country co-host next year with Zimbabwe, Tourism  secretary Sylvester Maunganidze said.

He told parliament’s Natural Resources Environment and Tourism portfolio  committee Zambia had changed tourism secretaries and ministers at least four  times since August last year (2011), making planning between the two host nations  difficult.

“It has not been easy to prepare to co-host, I just wanted you to know that  between August last year when we went to bid in Madrid and now I have worked  with four counterparts.

“Four permanent secretaries and four different ministers”, he said, adding  that Zambia has changed its tourism official every two months.

Right now, Maunganidze said, Zambia has no secretary for tourism and is  expected to appoint one on Wednesday.

This is despite the fact that the countries are supposed to meet monthly to present progress reports and come up with a common vision ahead of the
Zimbabwe is supposed to visit Zambia this week for the routine joint consultative meeting.
“We have not been able to do anything meaningful with our counterparts because there have been changes every two months,” Maunganidze said.
“You should appreciate that if there are certain things that do not happen  it is because we have a Siamese twin who is handicapped across the river and  unfortunately we breathe the same oxygen,’ he added.
“I don’t want to say we had wished we were doing it on our own but at this late hour I feel we would have done better.”

According to the inspectors, it is very clear that there is no coordination between the two countries. Also the promised infrastructure will not happen before the congress date.

A visit to Livingstone town is a shock to those that would have come with high anticipation of witnessing the hype of preparations. The only signs of the preparations are the trees planted on the Mosi-Oa-Tunya road islands and the demolished town market normally referred to as Zimbabwe market. The 40 km road contract is awarded to one contractor who has not even received the 25% deposit for the works.

Street vending is still a challenge. The town still looks a mess with the tourists introduced to women selling veggies in a dirty environment upon entry into town from the airport.

The status is unlikely to improve with the suspension of the council and the shifting of the provincial administration to Choma.

The Southern Province Permanent Secretary is the chairman for the Local Organising Committee. Since the appointment of the Committee by Cabinet Office early November, 2012, not a single meeting has taken place. It is unlikely that the situation will improve when he will be operating from Choma.

The frenzy that came with the winning of the bid has died as not many people are aware of what is going on. People are wondering where all the money allocated for the preparations is going as programs put in place are not all being implemented.

If things do not happen, it is because we have incompetent people in the government who are only interested in making money for themselves and have no passion for tourism at all.

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