AS ZAMBIA prepares to co-host the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) general assembly with Zimbabwe in August this year, it is imperative to highlight Zambia's tourism potential for would-be delegates and tourists to appreciate.
Zambia's tourism potential lies in its vast tracts of pristine land, which include wildlife, adventure activities, diverse culture and a rich national heritage.
The country's tourism hinges on the land of abundance and it has one of the earth's biggest waterfalls, the Victoria Falls, the mighty Zambezi River, breathtaking lakes and wetlands.
Apart from the Victoria Falls, Zambian tourism takes into account the seven waterfalls with awe-inspiring and spectacular views.
The country boasts a profusion of birds, abundant wildlife, and raw and pulsating wilderness.
There are more than 740 bird species. It is a birder's paradise too!
Zambian tourism is the land of glorious sunsets, friendly people, ancient traditions and mystic legends, of nature at its wildest and most exquisite.
According to the Zambia Tourism Board tour guide, the country covers a total surface area of 752,614 square kilometres.
Zambia is generally a high plateau averaging between 1,060 metres (3,500 ft) and 1,363 metres (4,500 ft) above sea level.
This makes the country's weather mild and pleasant.
The country's water surface is 11,890 square kilometres equivalent to two per cent of the land surface.
The water bodies are mainly from the three natural lakes in northern Zambia namely Bangweulu, Mweru and Tanganyika.
The fourth is in the south, the exciting man-made Lake Kariba.
When commissioned in the late 1950's, Lake Kariba was the largest man-made lake in the world.
It measures 280 kilometres long and 40 kilometres at its widest.
There are over 73 dialects spoken in Zambia, but the official language is English, and out of the 73 ethnic groups 20 celebrate special cultural ceremonies on an annual basis.
These manifest customs, social life, rituals, oral history, material and spiritual culture.
During these traditional ceremonies, the music and dance characterise quiet beauty, bustle, bounding life, or full of joy.
The emphasis varies from breathless acrobatic spectacle amid propulsive drumming to fine subtleties of sound and movement.
So, culture forms a part of the Zambian Tourism
The country has 19 game parks and 34 game reserves translating into 30 per cent of the country's land.
Some game reserves are privately owned while the major ones are state controlled. However, as most tourism is concentrated in a limited number of national parks including the South Luangwa, Kafue, Lower Zambezi, Mosi-o-Tunya and Kasanka, there are opportunities for investors to venture into developing other parks as well.
There is also considerable potential for small-scale investors looking to create sustainable tourism projects that involve the local community at a wider level.
In fact, Government has outlined a series of tourism-specific incentives including priority access to land allocation and provision of other utilities.
Zambia is best known for the walking safari and rich wildlife populations.
Safaris are well managed in small numbers so visitors get the best out of nature and so nature is respected.
While modern life and poaching has played a part in the reduced Zambian wildlife in the parks compared to historic wildlife populations, more is being done to ensure the safety of Zambian national parks.
Actually, some of Zambia's national parks like South Luangwa and the Lower Zambezi National Park are considered to be some of the best in the world.
Zambia's wildlife estate is one of the largest in the sub-region, with wildlife-protected areas occupying about 40 per cent of the country's land surface area.
There is scope for development of private wildlife estates given the availability of land in communal areas.
The country is also in the process of developing and encouraging investments in the northern part of the country, which is endowed with unspoiled natural attractions such as waterfalls, lakes, hot springs and offers possibilities for conventional game drives as well.
This area is known as the northern tourism circuit.
Government has so far invested KR100 million in the infrastructure development of the Northern Tourism Circuit which encompasses Northern and Luapula provinces.
The Northern Tourism Circuit has great potential and memorable sceneries such as the Samfya natural beaches which can attract private sector investments in hospitality development.
There are waterfalls like the Kalambo and Chishimba and tourist sites such as Ntumba Chushi in Kawambwa and others in Mbala and Mpulungu.
Apart from its abundant wildlife in national parks and game reserves, rivers, and lakes, the country holds six per cent of the world's copper reserves.
It also has world-class quality emeralds, aquamarines, amethyst, and tourmalines.
Livngstone, the hosting city of the UNWTO, has a wide selection of hi-action activities such as world-class river rafting, bungi jumping into the deep gorge below the falls, abseiling, canoeing safaris down the Zambezi, river surfing, excellent tiger fishing or even watching the breathtaking African sunsets on Lake Kariba.
Vegetation is savanna type with lots of trees varying in density.
The climate makes the country suitable for a wide range of farming crops. Vegetables and fruits such as citrus, bananas, pineapples, mangoes, avocadoes, all grow.
Although the country lies in the tropics, the general height of the plateau ensures that the climate is seldom unpleasantly hot, except in the valleys.
There are three seasons: the cool, dry winter season from May to September; the hot, dry season in October and November; and the rainy season, which is a little hotter, from December to April.
The climate favours the growth of the sector tourism hence being the fast growing destination in African safaris and the tourism opportunities are myraid.
Equally so, the lodging opportunities vary to suit almost any taste, and budget.
Zambia and Zimbabwe will co-host the 20th Session of UNWTO general assembly this year, which is expected to be a springboard for tourism development in Zambia.
The General Assembly held from August 24 to August 29, has amass benefits which includes boosting Zambia's profile as meeting, incentive, conference and event (MICE) destination on the global market.
More than 155 countries will be exposed to destination Zambia.
The event will draw international media attention which will showcase Zambia's tourist products to the rest of the world.