TOURISM and Arts Minister Sylvia Masebo is impressed that most hotels and lodges enlisted as venues for the co-hosting of the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) general assembly in Livingstone next year have reached an advanced stage in improving their facilities.
Ms Masebo said the Livingstone hospitality industry had shown general improvement in terms of accommodation, food, and surroundings in preparations for the global tourism summit.
She said the hotels and lodges were ready to co-host the conference even if the event was to be held this year.
Ms Masebo was speaking in Livingstone on Tuesday after she toured selected venues for the general assembly.
Livingstone and Zimbabwe's Victoria Falls town will co-host the UNWTO general assembly from August 24 to 29 next year and more than 4,000 delegates are expected to be accommodated in the two towns.
Zambezi Sun International, Royal Livingstone Hotel, Courtyard Hotel, Chrismar Hotel, Protea Hotel, David Livingstone Spar and Safari Lodge, Fallsway Lodge, Chapa Classic Lodge, Mosi-o-tunya Executive Lodge, Waterfront Lodge and Wasawange Lodge are some of the official venues for the event.
"I am happy that almost all official venues are doing some improvements to their facilities such as increasing their bed capacity, putting up new furniture and toilets as well as new electronics to expand their premises," she said.
Ms Masebo, however, urged the facility owners to review their rates because there was a general complaint that accommodation and other services in Zambia were more expensive than in Zimbabwe.
She noted that most Zambians were failing to access services in the hospitality industry because the rates were high.
"Come up with rates for Zambians as well as rates for foreigners. For instance, it is very expensive for an ordinary Zambian to pay more than K600,000 as accommodation per night as most of them travel as families," she said.
Chrismar Hotel Livingstone general manager Robert Mcron said the hotel was constructing 40 new rooms in addition to the 59 existing ones in readiness for the general assembly next year.
Mr Mcron said more than K150 million had already been spent on refurbishment of the hotel such as improving the kitchen, lavatories and restaurants.
Protea Hotel general manager Tanya Stephens said the hotel was already providing services of international standards but there was need to sensitise staff on the UNWTO general assembly.
Ms Stephens said the hotel had retiled its corridors and that it was in the process of fitting mosquito covers on all windows as well as conducting general maintenance of the premises to prepare for the event.
Waterfront Lodge general manager Sharmaine Barry said her lodge would do general refurbishment of the premises to prepare for the event.
Ms Barry said the lodge, which had about 21 rooms and outside space for pitching tents, was ready to compete favourably with operators in the neighbouring Victoria Falls.
Taonga Safari proprietor Andrew Thomson said his organisation was in a process of acquiring new furniture to improve the premises.
The Safari, which has a cruise boat and located on the banks of Zambezi River, usually attracts many Zambians because it is affordable to most people.