13 February 2013

Zambia Ready to Host August Unwto General Assembly

PREPARATIONS to host the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) General Assembly this year in August have kicked into top gear and yet some people still doubt Zambia's readiness to host this event.

Government and other major players in the industry do not understand what yardsticks the skeptics have used to conclude that the country is not ready.

By the way, what are the major requirements for Zambia to host such an event apart from accommodation, food, transport and conference logistics?

Hotels and Catering Association of Zambia chairperson Felix Mulenga said Zambia is ready to host the UNWTO General Assembly because the infrastructure such as accommodation is adequate.

Mr Mulenga said Livingstone has more than 4,000 bed spaces which are more than enough to cater for the delegates even if all of them decide to stay on the Zambian side.

"We don't understand when some say that Zambia is not ready to host the event when we have all the super structures in place," Mr Mulenga said.

Zambia and Zimbabwe will co-host the 20th Session of the UNWTO General Assembly which is expected to be a springboard for tourism development in the country.

The General Assembly held from August 24 to 29 this year, has mass benefits, which include boosting Zambia's profile as a 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.

The event will promote regional cooperation, both bilateral and multi-lateral.

The relationships with airlines and other service providers will equally be strengthened.

University Teaching Hospital consultant Francis Manda suggested that Zambia is not ready to co-host the UNWTO General Assembly.

But Mr Mulenga said delegates from the UNWTO recently made independent assessments to determine whether Zambia is ready to co-host the UNWTO.

The delegation declared that Zambia is ready to co-host the event.

He said roads from Livingstone International Airport to the conference centre and to the identified lodging facilities are in good shape.

Moreover, Government and the private sector are rehabilitating several other roads and improving supporting infrastructure in the tourist capital in readiness for the event.

Mr Mulenga said the improvement of the supporting infrastructure will be ready before the opening of the assembly.

The Livingstone International Airport is undergoing the rehabilitation process which is expected to be complete by the time of the UNWTO.

Emirates Airline has indicated introducing a direct flight into the tourist capital during the UNWTO period to enhance air transport.

Tour operators offering various tourism products are equally preparing adequately to benefit directly or from the spillover of the event.

One of the tour operators, Kingsley Lilamono, who owns Limbo Lodge, said Zambia has the capacity and is ready to host the UNWTO General Assembly.

"However, all we need is coordination otherwise everything is unfolding smoothly and we will host the event successfully," said Mr Lilamono, who is past chairperson for the Livingstone Tourism Association (LTA).

LTA chairperson Active Monze said the incapacity of individual tour operators should not be misconstrued as a nation being incapable of hosting the event.

Mr Monze, who owns Rainbow Safaris Limited, said the general assembly is a Government-driven programme and individual tour operator incapacities should not be generalised.

"We are ready, we are almost meeting the major requirements, so I don't understand why some individuals are talking about that we are not ready to host the UNWTO," Mr Monze said.

Mr Monze challenged people to take interest and appreciate what has been done so far in terms of preparations unlike commenting from the sidelines.

Information and Broadcasting Services Permanent Secretary, Amos Malupenga said Zambia has put up coordinated efforts to successfully co-host the global tourism event with Zimbabwe.

Government has formed several committees at national level aimed at addressing various issues ahead of the assembly.

Apart from the two national committees, the Government had formed sub-committees on security, health, information and publicity being headed by permanent secretaries in their respective ministries.

That aside, there is a local organisation committee that has been established in Livingstone.

Zambia and Zimbabwe have been working in collaboration with each other players to ensure a successful general assembly.

Therefore, it is imperative that all players aggressively marketed he event so that Zambia's tourism potential is highlighted to attract more tourists.

Promoting and successful hosting of the UNWTO will have a direct effect on the industry and other sectors, thereby creating more jobs and subsequently reduce poverty.

This is, however, an opportunity to showcase Zambia's tourism potential because the focus is the country unlike being negative.

The wild Zambezi River, breath-taking lakes and wetlands, profusion of birds, abundant wildlife, and raw, pulsating wilderness is what the country should be singing about in order to attract more tourists for future posterity.

The world ought to know that Zambian tourism is the land of glorious sunsets, friendly people, ancient traditions and mystic legends, of nature at its wildest and most exquisite.

There are more than 73 dialects spoken but the official language is English and out of the 73 ethnic groups 20 celebrate special cultural ceremonies on an annual basis.

But the country has remained peaceful, which is one the greatest assets some countries world over do not have.

The traditional ceremonies manifest customs, social life, rituals, oral history, material and spiritual culture which depict Zambia's cultural heritage.

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