Zimbabwe Tourism Minister Walter Mzembi says preparations for this year’s United Nations World Tourism Organization General Assembly to be co-hosted by Zimbabwe and Zambia are on course.
Mr. Mzembi says his Ministry is waiting for the release of $2 million from the Ministry of Finance to pay contractors working to beat the June 27 deadline to complete the refurbishment of old structures and the construction of new ones ahead of the world premier event. The money is part of the $6.5 million needed to host the event.
"I met with Finance Minister Tendai Biti last Tuesday and he promised he would soon be releasing a tranche of the $6.5 million needed for the conference soon so that we can pay contractors that have been working diligently to ensure that we meet assessment deadlines," said Mzembi.
Mr. Mzembi arrived in Victoria Falls on Thursday to assess progress on the ground.
"As I talk to you right now I am aboard the Zambezi Explorer, one of the largest boats on the Zambezi commissioned by the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority last week to ensure that it is ready to host the 140 tourism ministers during the assembly. We will use this boat for the minister's summit on the second day of the assembly, “said Mzembi.
"Also aboard this boat are potential investors interested in investing in the 1,200 hectare tourism theme park which I recently commissioned," added Mzembi.
Mzembi says he met with most contractors during his visit to ensure that construction of various structures is speeded up ahead of the last General Assembly assessment which will be done on June 27.
"The last assessment team from the General Assembly will come here on June 27 and I expect no problems at all. I am confident they will just come up and say kudos up. They are basically coming to fine-tune issues with us," said Mzembi.
Minister Mzembi says during his tour he met with the professional conference organisers, the city's Mayor Nkosilathi Jiyani and his team to get an update on the city's readiness to host the General Assembly.
He said his Ministry is working with the local organising committee to ensure all projects are completed ahead of the General Assembly assessment tour.
Zimbabwe has in the past been castigated for not having enough reliable air transport during large international summits. Mzembi, however, is confident the local airline, Air Zimbabwe, will rise to the occasion as it has recently acquired a new fleet and opened up new routes.
"In terms of connectivity if delegates land in Harare, I am confident Air Zimbabwe will be able to fly them into the Victoria Falls, they have also acquired some air buses and leased other planes to make sure that they are ready for the General Assembly," said Mzembi.
Mzembi also met with his counterpart from Zambia, who assured him arrangements there we also at an advanced stage.