It will however be the first time of hosting for the SADC and COMESA regions, to which both neighbouring countries belong.
The two countries have made a lot of progress in terms of planning for the event, said Zambia's Deputy Minister of Tourism and Arts Mr. David Phiri, when he met the AU Commission's Deputy Chairperson Mr. Erastus Mwencha at the African Union headquarters on 29 April. Mr Phiri was part of a joint delegation that included Ms Mukahanana Sangarwe, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Tourism and Hospitality Industry of Zimbabwe. African Union Commissioner of Infrastructure and Energy Dr Elham Ibrahim also attended the meeting.
“A lot is involved in preparing for the event. We are collaborating very well to ensure success. The UNWTO is also working closely with us. So far, we have had three technical visits by the WTO and they are happy with the preparations”, said Mr. Phiri.
He added that logistical arrangements are also being made regarding air connectivity and visa facilitation for delegates. “Realising the importance of a visa regime that will not frustrate visitors, Zimbabwe and Zambia have worked round it. We will issue gratis visas for delegates,” explained Mr. Phiri.
This stance of encouraging free movement was highly lauded by the AUC Deputy Chairperson who described it as “an element that can help us in our integration”, in reference to the AU vision that states integration of the African continent as one of the Union's main aims.
The joint Zimbabwe Zambia UNWTO summit is being branded as a uniquely African event, announced Ms Sangarwe. “We want to showcase Africa, we want people to see Africa”, she added. It is in respect of the summit being an African event being held on the African continent that the two countries found it pertinent to officially inform the African Union about it. Many African and other countries are expected to attend the event. To this, Mr. Mwencha said the fact that the summit is being held in the name of Africa is a great tribute to the continent. “When South Africa hosted the football world cup in 2010, it was in the name of Africa and everyone was proud of that.
We will also be proud when Zimbabwe and Zambia successfully host the world tourism summit later this year,” said Mr. Mwencha. He encouraged the two countries to find commonality with the African Union in branding the summit as a truly African event.
Both Zimbabwe and Zambia see tourism as a key sector that will help to create jobs and grow their economies. As such, the summit is an important event for the two countries as well as for the African continent.