Friday, September 27, 2013

(SUNDAY MAIL ZW) Zim, Zambia shine at UNWTO
Sunday, 01 September 2013 00:00
Prince Mushawevato in Livingstone Zambia

The 20th session of the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) general assembly — the first ever to be held in Southern Africa — came to a conclusion on a high note on Friday, amid commitment by member states to use tourism as a driver for economic development and empowerment of communities.

After five days of high-level deliberations on issues that have posed impediments to tourism development such as pricing regimes, communication connectivity and political will, President Mugabe, his Zambian counterpart Mr Michael Sata and UNWTO secretary-general Dr Taleb Rifai committed themselves to adopting policies and technologies that make it easy for tourists to travel to any part of the world undisturbed as a long-term solution.

The issue of visa regimes and the need for a one-stop border post system gathered serious momentum, as they will determine the future of tourism.

In his closing remarks, President Mugabe said the world should move with time and adopt technology and policies that are proactive to tourism development.

“As a region we must continue to adopt new technologies that enhance visa applications and processing formalities. Furthermore there is need to improve the connectivity and accessibility of destinations.

“This is in line of key resolutions of this general assembly that recognise the close linkage between travel facilitation and tourism development as a tool to stimulate sustainable tourism demand,” said President Mugabe.

Zambian President Mr Sata said his government would do follow-ups to resolutions of the UNWTO, to ensure sustainable tourism development.

“I am also happy to note that, during this general assembly, the programme of work of the UNWTO has been adopted up to 2015. In this regard, Zambia will undertake follow-up activities in order to benefit from the decisions and recommendations of this assembly.

“I have been following with keen interest the deliberations of this general assembly on efforts to advance tourism’s sustainable growth such as visa facilitation, connectivity and accessibility,” he said. UNWTO secretary-general Dr Rifai declared that the 20th session of the general assembly was the best ever in the history of the organisation.

“This is the best UNWTO general assembly in terms of attendance and everything. We still feel that the decision to allow Zimbabwe and Zambia to co-host was correct. Those who disagree with that decision should have come and seen for themselves, the smiles on the streets of Livingstone and Victoria Falls, the welcome and the business.

“It was the decision of the entire executive council in South Korea and we feel it was very correct,’’ he said.

The UNWTO brought a major facelift to Victoria Falls with the US$6,5 million upgrading of the hospital, the US$150 million airport expansion, the tarring of the roads, new water and sewer reticulation projects, among others. Hotels and restaurants also had facelifts.

House owners had brisk business, renting out their rooms for up to US$100 per room per day, while others let out entire homes for up to US$800 per day. The 20th session of the UNWTO general assembly also approved important recommendations on accessible tourism for all.

The recommendations define the appropriate measures to ensure that persons with disabilities have access on an equal basis with others, to all travel and tourism services infrastructure. Furthermore, the assembly took important decisions including the approval of UNWTO programme of work and the budget for the coming of Bienna (2014-2015), the approval of a set of recommendations on youths tourism. Also, three new member states were welcome to the organisation namely Myanmar, Trinidad and Tobago and the United Arab Emirates and 88 new affiliate members.

This is the first ever UNWTO general assembly in Southern Africa. More importantly, Zimbabwe, has been elected to chair the African Commission of the UNWTO.

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