Officials from soccer's governing body, Fifa, will visit Zimbabwe next week to assess capacity to host fans from the 2010 World Cup to be held in neighbouring South Africa, Zimbabwe's tourism authority said on Tuesday. The country hopes to cash in on its proximity to South Africa -- the first African country to host the event.
Officials from soccer’s governing body, Fifa, will visit Zimbabwe next week to assess capacity to host fans from the 2010 World Cup to be held in neighbouring South Africa, Zimbabwe’s tourism authority said on Tuesday.
The country hopes to cash in on its proximity to South Africa—the first African country to host the event—as a flood of tourists arrives in the region for the world’s most popular sporting event.
But with inflation running at more than 7 000%, a battered infrastructure and signs of political unrest, there is a prospect that soccer fans will stay away.
Several Western governments have already issued travel warnings to their citizens about heading to Zimbabwe.
However, the Southern African country is banking that attractions, such as the Victoria Falls resort and one of Africa’s largest elephant populations, will lure visitors.
In a statement on Tuesday, the chief executive of the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority (ZTA) said the Fifa delegation starts a four-day tour on September 10.
It will visit several three- to five-star hotels in Harare, Bulawayo, Victoria Falls and other tourism facilities.
“Zimbabwe boasts of one of the highest standards in tourism and hospitality, with a grading system that meets any international standard,” said Karikoga Kaseke.
“They will definitely also be looking at such issues as facilitation at ports of entry, customs and immigration and transportation,” he added.
President Robert Mugabe’s controversial policies, such as seizing white-owned farms for redistribution have been blamed for an economic crisis marked by severe food, fuel and foreign currency shortages and the world’s highest inflation rate.
Western powers, who accuse Mugabe of destroying the economy and widespread human rights abuses, have imposed sanctions on Zimbabwe. He denies the allegations.
Zimbabwe plans to spend $67-million on hotels and infrastructure ahead of the World Cup.
Environment and Tourism Minister Francis Nhema said Zimbabwe had to scramble to prepare.
“It is either you prove your worth or they move to the next country. Don’t tell them we have this problem and the other, tell them what you can do for them,” state media quoted him as saying.—Reuters