By Nyembezi Khumalo
Victoria Falls, August 19, 2013 – The United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) general assembly kicks off this week but infrastructure development projects have not been completely refurbished or constructed due to financial constraints.
A planned street carnival scheduled to be held on the eve of the UNWTO event that begins on Saturday has also been scrapped due to lack of financial resources to pay local, regional and international artists to be invited to grace the event.
“The carnival has been cancelled due to lack of funding,” Sugar Chagonda, the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority’s spokesperson told Radio VOP over the weekend.
The UNWTO tourism indaba runs from24-29 August and is co-hosted by Zimbabwe and Zambia.
Radio VOP was part of a media crew that visited Victoria Falls on a tour of the resort town ahead of the opening of the indaba. The tour revealed that construction projects were behind schedule, with only less than a week to the UNWTO event.
The extension and upgrades to the Victoria Falls Hospital and construction of a new airport look likely not to be completed in time for the event. The government has resorted to widening the existing terminal owing to realisation that a new airport will not be constructed in time due to financial challenges.
A 24 kilometre stretch of road from the Victoria Falls Airport into the resort town has been widened but not fully resurfaced to ensure the smooth flow of road traffic while most street lights are not functional.
On Saturday, construction workers were still busy trying to put final touches to the pre-fabricated semi-permanent structure to house the proceedings of the UNWTO general assembly.
A new water pipeline, electricity substation and improvements to fibre optic links and bandwidth availability is however complete with residents of the resort town bidding farewell to water shortages and power cuts.
“We used to be subjected to daily power cuts and water rationing but it’s now a thing of the past. We hope that this will continue well after the general assembly,” Patson Moyo, a resident of Chinotimba high density suburb told Radio VOP.
Outgoing Tourism Minister, Walter Mzembi on Saturday expressed confidence that all infrastructure development projects and the road resurfacing will be complete before the UNWTO event starts.
“We are happy with the preparations and I am confident that we will successfully co-host the event with Zambia,” Mzembi told a team of journalists during a tour of UNWTO general assembly projects.
Mzembi said Zimbabwe had spent close to US$12 million towards the event to match international standards. Government had only allocated US$6.5 million towards the event, leading to his ministry’s sending a request to the corporate world to chip in with financial assistance.
Accreditation of delegates from over 65 countries is complete, Mzembi said, adding that all is set for the event that is earmarked to market Zimbabwe and result in the country becoming a tourist destination of choice.