WHEN one considers Tourism and Arts Minister, Sylvia Masebo and other stakeholders’ zeal to make the forthcoming United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) general assembly a success, one feels excited and can join this enthusiasm to ensure that Zambia uses such an opportunity to market the whole nation’s tourism industry.
Such a feeling comes after late president Levy Mwanawasa declared that Zambia’s tourism potential was second to the mining sector in that it could contribute to boosting the nation’s economy, creating more jobs and reducing high poverty levels.
It is interesting that Honourable Masebo is such a hard working minister with a vision that seems to be in line with that of President Michael Sata.
President Sata, Ms Masebo and some other ministers seem to have a vision for Zambia which other citizens don’t seem to have.
Through vision and hard work, President Sata and some Government ministers want to make Zambia a better place to live in. For Ms Masebo, she initially observed that Zambians were not as hard working as expected.
Then while in Germany, the minister was quoted in the Press saying that some civil servants should change their attitude and effectively market Zambia’s tourism abroad. Hon Masebo said this because most Zambians, including civil servants, don’t seem to understand what the tourism sector is all about and, therefore, they don’t seem to know how to participate in marketing Zambia’s tourism sector well.
As a result, one can argue that President Sata’s vision for Zambia and that of some of the ministers like Ms Masebo seem to be operating in a vacuum. Some people seem not to know where to start from in supporting such well-meaning intentions.
The attitude of some leaders, civil servants and even citizens needs to change for the country to move in the right direction and change things for the better of all Zambians.
But for not participating adequately in marketing Zambia’s tourism, some civil servants and citizens can be forgiven because the Government and the Zambia Tourism Board (ZTB) have realised the need for all tourism stakeholders to actively participate in marketing Zambia’s tourism.
The Government and ZTB have just realised the importance and potential of such an industry in contributing to the development of the national economy.
It is this background that has impressed some neighbouring countries as Zambia makes strides in marketing its tourism as the country prepares for the UNWTO indaba this month despite such an industry seemingly being dormant for a long time.
Many Zambians and civil servants were not indoctrinated and trained in the importance of and how to market Zambia’s tourism. As a result, Zambia has not been marketing its tourism industry aggressively like some neighbouring countries have been doing for many years now.
This is why Hon Masebo was quoted in the Press saying that some neighbouring countries marketed the Victoria Falls as though it was in their countries and some tourists didn’t know that when they were watching the Victoria Falls, they were actually watching it while in Zambia.
It is now gratifying that the Tourism ministry in conjunction with ZTB have realised the importance of involving stakeholders in marketing tourism.
It is against this background that one now sees many tourism-related stakeholders such as those in the hospitality industry and others being active participants in such preparations. It is from such a realisation that the Government and ZTB have joined hands to identify key tourism stakeholders dotted around the country, sensitise and train such people in their role and contribution in marketing Zambia’s tourism, and how best they can put their resources together to successfully market Zambia’s tourism.
This is why Hon Masebo said the PF Government had adequately funded and supported UNWTO conference preparations for it to be a success at all costs. Reliable sources informed this writer that many tourism-related facilities had already been identified and documented as part of marketing tourism before the UNWTO general assembly.
One can thank the Government, Tourism ministry, ZTB and many other tourism-related stakeholders for mobilising resources and putting their heads together in ensuring that the indaba is a success.
But what one wonders, while preparing for such a conference, is whether all tourism-related stakeholders will maintain such a zeal, co-ordination and mobilisation of resources as it is now or even improve on such enthusiasm in marketing Zambia’s tourism after the UNWTO conference or not.
One expects the Government to continue mobilising resources and supporting the tourism sector even after this much talked-about August indaba. As late Mwanawasa observed, tourism in Zambia can highly contribute to national development.
Hon Masebo has also noted that such a sector can create more permanent jobs for many citizens. Tourism is one of the key sectors that can create gainful jobs and reduce poverty levels in the country.
Therefore, as Senior Chief Mukuni observed, while we are making such frantic efforts to make the UNWTO conference a success, we should, as a nation, also take note of the challenges we are facing in such preparations for the UNWTO General Assembly, and the lessons we learn from such challenges in such preparations should be documented.
One of such challenges is inadequate involvement of a wide range of other tourism-related stakeholders such as those in the hospitality industry, civil servants, including those in foreign missions, traditional leaders and citizens close to tourism-related facilities.
Do most civil servants know how many waterfalls we have in Zambia and where each one is? Can most Zambians know how many hot water springs like that of Chinyunyu area on the Great East Road we have in Zambia?
Do all traditional leaders and Zambians protect and preserve tourism facilities such as monuments and other museum-related facilities? Where is the Ing’ombe Ilede tree? And how safe is it today?
As of now it appears most other tourism-related stakeholders, civil servants and some citizens don’t understand most tourism attractions that exist in our country and how to market Zambia’s tourism.
As one marketing expert stated: “Marketing is too important to be left to the marketing department alone.” Similarly, tourism marketing is too important to be left to the Tourism Ministry and ZTB alone. Marketing tourism, like marketing any product, needs aggressive internal and external marketing.
Many tourism stakeholders, civil servants and people in neighbouring countries are aggressive in marketing their tourism because they understand how beneficial such a sector is to their businesses, their national economy and to their lives.
Most Zambia’s tourism-related stakeholders, civil servants and some citizens don’t seem to know that if we all get involved in marketing Zambia’s tourism, more jobs can be created, our Government can have a lot of revenue to invest in socio-economic infrastructure and services to benefit all Zambians regardless of where one is.
As Hon Masebo observed, marketing Zambia’s tourism needs change of attitude by all of us. Effective marketing starts with attitudinal change.
One is supposed to have a positive attitude about a product one is selling. To have a positive attitude about what one is selling, one needs to have enough knowledge about that product.
This is what most tourism-related stakeholders, traditional leaders, civil servants and citizens don’t seem to have about Zambia’s tourism.
Therefore, before and after the UNWTO conference, the PF Government should continue involving and training tourism-related stakeholders such as those in the hospitality industry and others in providing tourism-related products and services; and in effective co-ordination in marketing Zambia’s tourism.
Tourism marketing, like marketing of any product, needs concerted efforts. It should be done like soldiers marching in one direction, and when a guard command says: ‘Right turn!’ All the soldiers on the guard should turn to the right, not some to the left, others on halt, etc.
This can bring confusion on parade. It can also be confusing in tourism marketing if each tourism stakeholder is doing his or her own things, some of which can be contradictory to effective marketing of Zambia’s tourism.
Marketing tourism needs total quality management and effective management. Pricing, branding, distributing, etc are some of the critical issues that are needed to effectively market Zambia’s tourism and address tourists’ needs.
If all tourism-related stakeholders such as those in the hospitality industry, civil servants and all Zambians market Zambia’s tourism the way Jehovah’s Witness preach about the Kingdom of God, Zambia is going to attract many tourists and earn a lot of money for socio-economic infrastructural development and high quality services for all citizens.
So from today until further notice, all tourism-related stakeholders belong to the Tourism Ministry. Therefore, the task and responsibility of marketing Zambia’s tourism is for all Zambians. Together as one, we can succeed in marketing Zambia’s tourism effectively.
(The author is a marketing and PR trainer and consultant. For comments and ideas, contact:
Cell: 0967/0977 450151; E-mail:[email protected])