L/stone comes alive ahead of UNWTO

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Zambia by mitia on 6/27/13

Some local residents are of the view that they would not benefit from the prestigious conference since UNWTO General Assembly sittings are usually confined to official delegates only.
However, it is important to note that delegates to the UNWTO  General Conference delegates and other tourists would be accommodated in Zambia’s tourist capital and Victoria Falls town.
Further, delegates to the UNWTO conference would be eating and buying products from the local people in the two host towns.
This would, therefore, in turn boost the income levels of the local people as one person’s expenditure is another person’s income.
In addition, Livingstone has so far witnessed unprecedented massive infrastructure development in various parts of the city as a legacy projects for co-hosting the UNWTO conference.
Several roads, modern markets, international bus stations, taxi ranks, ablution blocks, street lights, border and airport facilities among others are currently either being established and upgraded to improve the tourist capital.
Therefore, many Livingstone residents and other citizens who won’t have access to UNWTO meetings in boardrooms during the General Assembly would still benefit and enjoy these infrastructures being established for many years after co-hosting the conference.
At macro or national level, the  co-hosting of the UNWTO conference is an opportunity for Livingstone and Zambia to aggressively market its tourism products abroad and increase tourist arrivals to the country.
The unprecedented  massive infrastructure development in the city coupled with the Victoria Falls, which is one of the Seven Wonders of the World, and several other tourism products would go a long way  to increase tourist arrivals numbers to Livingstone and Zambia.
One aspect of encouraging local participation to preparations of the UNWTO General Assembly is the staging of arts and cultural festivals in Livingstone to give an opportunity to local artists to showcase their skills and products.
On June 21 and June 22 this year, the tourist capital hosted the first ever Livingstone International Cultural and Arts Festival (LICAF) as a curtain raiser for the UNWTO General Assembly.
The inaugural event, which was hosted in several parts of Livingstone, was organised by the Ministry of Arts and Tourism, Zambia Tourism Board (ZTB), the David Livingstone bicentenary 2013 organising committee.
Regional Tourism Association of Southern Africa (RETOSA) Chief Executives, who were attending a regional meeting in Livingstone, also attended the arts and cultural festival in the tourist capital.
The festival activities kicked-off on June 21 at Falls Park Mall where there was a wonderful cacophony of music, drums and dancing as the Street Carnival marched from the Mall along the main Mosi-oa-tunya Road through the centre of Livingstone.
Some groups, which included majorettes, were on foot while others were on flatbed trucks during the colourful processing.
On June 22, there was fun for everyone as the festival continued with performances at the Golf Club as well as pavilions showcasing participating groups and nations through culture, art and tourism.
Seychelles Sega dancers, Tswana cultural dancers from Botswana, the Melodians Caribbean Steel Orchestra from the United Kingdom (UK) as well as a cultural group and a band from Zimbabwe were among the foreign cultural groups in attendance.
From Zambia, several cultural groups from Livingstone as well as Kazungula and Choma joined the processions.
Cactus, JK, Pompi, Slap D and Amayenge groups from Lusaka were also part of the festival which lightened up the city readiness for the main festival to be held shortly before the UNWTO conference.
Tourism and Arts Minister Sylvia Masebo, who flagged-off and also led the Street Carnival processing, said it was the intention of the Government that the local community should benefit from the UNWTO conference.
Speaking at the arts and cultural festival gala dinner at Zambezi Sun Hotel, Ms Masebo said the unprecedented infrastructure developments in Livingstone were touching the whole population of the tourist capital.
“Livingstone will never be the same again and it will be the best town in Zambia in terms of cleanliness and entertainment.
Just this week, more than 3,000 pupils will have sporting activities in Livingstone and all this is because we will be co-hosting the UNWTO conference,” Ms Masebo said.
She said various Government Ministries had also lined up activities for communities of Livingstone to benefit from the UNWTO conference.
Ms Masebo also commended the media, through the Information and publicity organising committee of the UNWTO conference, for articulating well the matters of tourism and other aspects of preparations for the General Assembly.
She noted that curio traders in Livingstone had already earned an income from the sale of their products because of the hosting of the UNWTO conference.
“Domestic tourism is critical in ensuring that tourism survives. We all want foreign tourists to come but these tourists won’t always come and hence we have to rely on local tourism. Many people think that Zambia is very expensive destination but the media should help to educate people that we are not expensive as claimed,” Ms Masebo said.
She said President Michael Sata was attaching great importance to the arts and tourism and hence the creation of the Ministry of Arts and Tourism.
Ms Masebo  said  the festival was one of many activities which had been lined up in Livingstone to brighten up the city in readiness for the August 2013 UNWTO General Assembly.
She also said Zambia should harness the rich cultural diversity to promote tourism in  the  country.
Ms Masebo said Zambia had more than 70 tribes and each of the tribes had rich cultures and heritage which could be used to promote tourism.
She said the vast cultural diversity in Zambia was unique as many  countries did not  have it and, therefore, it was important that such a product was used to promote and grow the country’s tourism.
“The Zambian tourism has mainly been dependent on wildlife before the component of arts was added to the Ministry.
By bringing on board the component of arts and culture, the country’s tourism will be enhanced because Zambia has rich cultural diversities,” Ms Masebo said.
She said the festival would, going forward, be an annual event saying it would be held at district and national levels.
“Arts and culture is one easy industry which can create employment for people not just in cities but in rural areas of Zambia.
One does not need to obtain a university degree or speak English to be able to dance or showcase the culture and arts,” she said.
ZTB managing director Felix Chaila said he was happy that LICAF was finally launched.
Mr Chaila said the event would grow in future as it was key in attracting tourist to Livingstone and Zambia at large.
Festival local organising committee chairperson Vincent Katanekwa said the inaugural and exciting festival showcased the cultures of Livingstone and surrounding countries.
Mr Katanekwa, who is former Livingstone Museum director, was optimistic that the festival would lead to the promotion of domestic tourism.
“The festival has added to other forms of cultural tourism and gave chance to visitors both local and international to take part and celebrate the cultures of the local people.
We are delighted and honoured to have international cultural groups from Botswana, Zimbabwe, UK and Seychelles,” he said.
And speaking after saluting several local and international cultural groups outside the Main Post Office on Friday afternoon at the end of the Street Carnival, Ms Masebo said the tourism was a fast growing industry which could help countries create more jobs and eradicate poverty.
She said many African countries including Zambia were attaching great importance to the tourism sector.
“In August during the UNWTO conference, delegates will be meeting in conference rooms and the community won’t be part of these meetings.
Therefore, from now up to August this year, we will have entertainment activities as well as economic and social activities aimed at upgrading the lives of local people,” she said.
Ms Masebo said under the Ministry of Health, Livingstone would be screening for cervical cancer and every woman would be screened.
She also said Livingstone residents would also participate in planting trees, beauty pageants, media awards and sporting activities to enable the communities feel part of the UNWTO General Assembly.
Ms Masebo urged Livingstone residents to participate in all activities lined up ahead of the UNWTO conference.
And Ms Masebo assured Livingstone residents that street vendors would not go back to streets after the August 2013 UNWTO General Assembly.
She said it was the intention of the Patriotic Front (PF) Government to create good trading places for vendors and hence the issue of vendors going back to streets won’t arise after the UNWTO conference.
Ms Masebo was responding to questions from Livingstone residents at the Royal Livingstone Golf and Country Club during a public debate organised by the Press Freedom Committee of The Post Newspapers.
She said a two-storey ultramodern market currently under construction in Livingstone would accommodate some vendors once construction was completed.
“We won’t allow vendors to come back to streets in Livingstone after the August 2013 UNWTO conference.
Vendors will continue trading in designated trading centres such as Green Market and COMESA markets where they were relocated to,” she said.
Ms Masebo said the PF Government wanted all vendors to have better jobs and trade from clean places which had water and sanitation facilities.
During the same debate, Southern Region United Vendors Foundation (SRUVF) secretary Patrick Mubanga supported Ms Masebo’s sentiments that vendors would not go back to streets after the UNWTO conference.
Mr Mubanga said his Foundation wanted to encourage vendors to trade in designated places even after the global tourism summit.
On the involvement of the local community in Livingstone in UNWTO conference preparations, Ms Masebo said people were already involved through the local organising committee which comprised of all categories of locals.
“Government already released money and that money is already in Livingstone. There is already participation in Livingstone and maybe it is the amount of participation.
Now we have more artists and women participation from all corners of Livingstone as can be seen at this festival,” Ms Masebo said.
She also assured residents that the various works being constructed or upgraded in the city were being done professionally.
Ms Masebo said all infrastructure developments taking place in the city were supervised by the Livingstone City Council as well as the Ministry of Transport, Communication, Works, and Supply.
On measures put in place to improve local people’s access to major hotels such as Sun International Zambia, Ms Masebo said her ministry had already agreed with Livingstone Tourism Association (LTA) for tour operators to lower their rates.
She said Livingstone hotels and lodges were currently competing very well with Zimbabwe, while some rooms were currently cheaper compared to those in Zimbabwe.
“Even flights for Proflight from Lusaka to Livingstone have become cheaper at KR250 and all we need to do is to send the information,” she said.
On calls for more bands from Livingstone to participate in the UNWTO shows, Ms Masebo said the tourist capital would have 50 per cent of artists and other artists participating in shows, while the remaining 50 per cent would come from other parts of the country.
“The co-hosting of the UNWTO conference is an opportunity for Livingstone and Zambia to market its tourism products abroad.
I have always asked operators not to inflate prices because if they hike their prices because of the UNWTO, they will lose out,” she said.
And speaking in a separate interview, National Arts Council (NAC) chairperson Mulenga Kapwepwe said plans were already underway to turn the Livingstone international arts and cultural festival into an annual event.
Ms Kapwepwe said Zambians were not very familiar with carnivals but there was need to embrace such activities to attract tourists to the city.
“The most important point is that we have started with this festival and I am sure next year we will make it better,” Ms Masebo said.
Livingstone will host another build-up arts and cultural festival during the last we of July this year in readiness for the grand UNWTO festival from August 22 to 23 this year shortly before the General Assembly.
It is, therefore, important for the local people to take advantage of the upcoming main festival and showcase their skills and products as a way of enjoy