Zimbabwe’s hotels, conference venues and safari lodges at Victoria Falls are filled to capacity as the resort town, along with its Zambian counterpart, the town of Livingstone, welcomes hundreds of international delegates to the biggest event on the international tourism calendar – the 20th General Assembly of the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO).
The UNWTO General Assembly is a bi-annual event held on equal rotational basis between the 186 member states. This is the first time such a mega tourism event has been held in Southern Africa and the second ever time on African soil, after Senegal hosted the Assembly in 2007.
It is an important occasion for Zimbabwe and Zambia which are seeking endorsement from the international tourism industry of their countries as safe and attractive tourist destinations. The meeting is attended by ministers and captains of the tourism and hospitality industries from the 186 member states as well as international tourist wholesalers.
Zimbabwe is taking advantage of the UNWTO event to promote its the new tourism brand — “Zimbabwe: A World of Wonders”. The country to hopes that the event will help to change international perceptions about Zimbabwe which have hitherto been negative. It is an opportunity for Zimbabwe tourism to showcase what it has to offer and to polish its international image.
Preparations for the General Assembly in Zimbabwe have been extensive. Air Zimbabwe has relaunched its Victoria Falls-Johannesburg air link, most of the hotels in Victoria Falls have undertaken extensive refurbishment of their accommodation facilities. The Victoria Falls airport and its access road have been upgraded. A brand new aluminium and glass conference centre to accommodate 500 delegates and 300 members of public has been constructed in the grounds of the Elephant Hills Hotel. Internet facilities have been modernized and upgraded, as have water and electricity supplies. A special “Clean-Up the Town” campaign prior to the event involved hundreds of enthusiastic volunteers, many of them represtenting the tourism industry (the Wilderness Safaris team are pictured here). The Victoria Falls bridge is now lit up at night, and the Parks and Wildlife Authority have recently translocated hundreds of wild animals from elsewhere in the country to boost game populations in the Zambezi National Park upstream of the resort town.