ZAMBIA (eTN) - Less than twelve months before the UN World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) General Assembly takes place in the Southern African states of Zambia and Zimbabwe, the Zambian government said preparations for the event are going smoothly.
Denying media reports over poor arrangements and preparations for the historic UNWTO gathering in Southern Africa, the Zambian Minister for Tourism and Arts, Sylvia Masebo, said recently that preparations for the UNWTO General Assembly were in full swing.
She castigated circulated media reports that preparations for the UNWTO high-profile gathering were going at a snail's pace.
The minister denied media reports which quoted an official from the Zambia Institute of Marketing (ZIM), an umbrella body of marketers saying that Zambia is not ready in terms of preparations because the country started the preparations late.
"I just want to tell Zambians and the world that we are on course. It is not true that Zimbabwe is in any way much readier than Zambia. The difference is that Zimbabwe knows how to market itself. They have good public relations," she was quoted telling the Zambian Parliament.
She said experts from the UNWTO secretariat have been coming to inspect the preparations and have so far done two inspections, adding that they are so far satisfied with the progress.
"Experts have been coming and so far they have come on two occasions and the next visit should be before the end of December or early next year," she said.
"Each time they come, they give us benchmarks to meet, and we have been meeting them," she added.
While acknowledging Zimbabwean authorities were aggressive in their marketing of the event, the Zambian minister said she has tried her level best by selling the country each time she accompanied President Michael Sata outside the country but noted concerted efforts are required to market the country.
"The difference between Zimbabwe and Zambia is that Zimbabweans are aggressive and patriotic but in Zambia we always try to bring each other down. Marketing is not about one individual but a collective responsibility," she added.
In terms of accelerating preparations, she said the government has so far done well by releasing funds for various works on infrastructure such as airports and roads in the tourist capital while various committees tasked with the responsibilities of ensuring smooth preparations have been formed.
Zambia and Zimbabwe have been selected to co-host the five-day event which is expected to attract over 3,000 delegates.
According to the Zambian Minister, the hosting of the event provides the two countries an opportunity to showcase their tourism potentials to the world.
Zimbabwe and Zambia won the bid to co-host the 2013 UNWTO Assembly, to be held in Victoria Falls and Livingstone, respectively, beating Russia, Turkey, Jordan, and Qatar.
The General Assembly is the supreme organization of the UNWTO and its ordinary sessions, held every two years, are attended by delegates from full and associate members, as well as representatives from the business council.
The event will bring 186 countries to Victoria Falls, one of the Seven Wonders of the World.
It will be the largest world gathering of countries in Zimbabwe since the Commonwealth Heads of State and Government Meeting held in the resort town, about two decades ago.
Zambia and Zimbabwe won the bid to jointly host the 20th session of the UNWTO General Assembly in 2013 during the 19th UNWTO General Assembly that was held in South Korea.