Published on : Tuesday, August 19, 2014
For the Jehovah’s Witnesses (JWs) International Convention, some 3500 delegates from the United States, Germany, Brazil and other countries will be attending the international convention, which was being held in Zimbabwe for the first time. At least 2000 were from the US. Others would come from Zambia, Kenya and Mozambique. They will be joined by over 50 000 local counterparts.
Above 400 representatives will converge in Victoria Falls for the Insurance Congress of Developing Countries meeting, the first time this event is being held on African soil, later next month.
All these events are not coming to Zimbabwe by chance, but because the country has proven to be a good destination for holding such meetings. This shows growing confidence by the world travellers on Zimbabwe, and once they are welcomed they become the country’s ambassadors in their countries.
This week the JWs event could be by far Tourism and Hospitality Industry minister Walter Mzembi and Zimbabwe Tourism Authority chief executive Karikoga Kaseke’s biggest break since they came onto the tourism scene.
Last year, Zimbabwe successfully co-hosted the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) General Assembly with Zambia, and although the influxes were very limited the spin-offs – in the form of these gatherings speak for themselves.
Mzembi has been telling all those who cared to listen that religious tourism plays a significant role in boosting tourism receipts, but this has been met with mixed feelings.
Faith based tourism added 300 million to the 1, 1 billion global arrivals in 2013. Mice tourism rakes in three times more receipts than leisure tourism with knock-on effects on local hotels in terms of revenue generation. The mice business has potential of growing tourism receipts from the current $1 billion annually. The tourism ministry has estimated that tourism receipts could hit the $5 billion mark by 2020.
In order to achieve 2020 vision, Zimbabwe has to adopt the open skies policy to allow more airlines to fly into the country, and do everything possible to keep those that are already flying into Zimbabwe. Policies must change, the mentality of the immigration must change, and the politics must change to build international appeal. Immigration officers must go through serious training in handling visitors as they sit at the country’s reception desk. This also includes the relaxation of visa conditions to nationals from source markets.
Cabinet ministers must talk less and do more action. They must leave tourism authorities to do most of the country’s branding. Government ministers must go out and lobby for international meetings to be held in Zimbabwe. Moreover, convention facilities must be built as well as lodges to accommodate more guests.