Last week, we introduced a column on the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) where we featured Tourism and Arts minister Sylvia Masebo, who shed more light on this important event to be co hosted by Zambia and Zimbabwe. The 20th General Assembly, slated for August this year in Livingstone and Victoria Falls Town, has attracted thousands of participants. Today, we continue the interview with Ms Masebo.
Q: About 3,000 delegates are expected to attend the conference. As Zambia, do we have enough bedspace in Livingstone to accommodate the participants?
A: The number of people expected could be over 2,000 but this will depend on how well we are marketing the country both locally and outside. It will also depend on activities taking place before, during and after.
We are planning for at least a minimum of 2,000 people. We are trying hard to encourage local tourism. As a ministry, the more tourists we have, the more revenue for Government, it’s business.
We have also been encouraging operators to improve on their bed facilities and services they provide. In as far as delegates to the UN is concerned, we have enough facilities both in Zambia and Zimbabwe. But when you come to number of visitors that the conference may attract into Livingstone, this is another area where we may have a challenge. Say, if 5,000 come to Livingstone from the local people, obviously there is going to be a challenge and this is why we are encouraging the private sector to partner with us so that they can fill up bedspaces.
People coming into Livingstone will require food and accommodation, this is good for the country and we should rise to the opportunity the conference is bringing to us.
Q: How much has been set aside for the successful hosting of the conference?
A: Some opposition politician thought the money was too much. We have adequate resources that have been allocated for the co-hosting of the conference. Really the challenge is not resources but implementation to achieve results in terms of products and services.
Hope that the people of Zambia and different sectors, we can put our heads together so that we can have a successful and memorable conference.
Q: The UNWTO is a huge event that requires concerted efforts from stakeholders. Who are the cooperating partners your ministry is working with and what sort of support are they offering?
A: Interesting enough, we have managed to attract support first of all from Government. The co-hosting of this conference as you know is not a ministry function, Government has brought on board various sector ministries.
For example, the Ministry of Broadcasting and Information is spearheading the marketing and promoting of tourism and the UNWTO conference while the Ministry of Home Affairs is coordinating issues of immigration and security.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs have come on board working on issues of protocol and international relations and the Ministry of Tourism, which is the lead ministry, is looking at issues of promoting tourism products, ensuring that we have enough accommodation, services are updated to international standards and develop the creative industry to bring it on board.
We also have support from co-operating partners, the various countries represented in Zambia. A number of them are coming on board that we have engaged and some are coming on their own without us engaging them. We have the United Nations Development Programme which is the lead agency, the British High Commission, the Americans, Swedish, Norwegians and many others.
Recently, my deputy minister led a delegation to the States on a study tour on how to organise major conferences such as the one we are hosting. We also have other countries that want to help us with the construction of semi-structures and permanent structures as the legacy of the UNWTO.
Q: As a ministry, you have been calling on entrepreneurs to participate in the hosting of the conference. So far, how many have registered to offer their services?
A: We have engaged the banking fraternity and the mining sector who have come on board and are all willing to support Government. In the next few weeks we will be working out a full programme and activities. From then on, we will be able to tell who is doing what and who will sponsor which activity. But the response has been very good, we have received good support from cooperating partners and also the private sector.
The communities are also coming on board following the awareness on the UNWTO.
Q: The hosting of the conference will help Zambia’s visibility on the globe. What marketing activities have been put in place?
A: The marketing committee of the UNWTO is working with the Zambia Tourism Board. ZTB is the marketing arm of Government under the Ministry of Tourism that has the function of marketing and promoting our tourism. They have already worked out some strategies by which we can market our country on both local and international media, and also get domestic tourism actively involved.
Q: Apart from the falls and the lakes, what else is there to showcase Zambia as a tourist destination?
A: Zambia’s tourism is heavily dependent on wildlife. We have beautiful wildlife, forestry and we cannot compare what we have with many of our neighbouring and international countries when it comes to wildlife.
We are the home of the mighty Victoria Falls, mighty Zambezi River, the Kalambo Falls, which is also one of the spectacular falls we have. In fact we have more than 100 waterfalls dotted all over, especially in the northern region. We also have the Chishimba Falls, for me some of the falls we have are even better than the Victoria Falls.
We also have our rich culture, which is very diverse and Zambian people are known to be friendly people, very caring and welcoming, which is a big asset. We have some of the best mines that we can show-case. We have many historical sites, Zambia was the home for liberation struggle for the whole of the southern region.
We also have a number of hot springs, artistic caves and rich culture that requires us to develop and promote. As we prepare ourselves for the UNWTO, we are also improving on some of our products and developing new products that people don’t know about.
Q: As we conclude our discussion, what are Government’s expectations from the successful hosting of the conference?
A: The conference is good for Zambia as it puts us on the world map and raises the tourism profile of the country. Zambia will be known as one of the best destinations in the world. It’s our hope that after this conference, we can attract as many tourists. Many people don’t know about our tourism and others think Zambia is just about the Victoria Falls. Many Zambians will begin to appreciate what tourism is all about, importance of conserving our tourism and sustainable management of our resources.
I feel that we will have created more jobs after this conference, the effects are more important than just the mere fact that we will be hosting the conference. The benefits have already been seen, we are creating employment, especially in Livingstone. Livingstone and Zambia in general will never be the same after the hosting of this conference in as far as tourism is concerned.
This time around, Zambians will begin to participate more in tourism.
Thank you for your time.
Thank you very much.