Tourism Indaba Preps in Full Swing
Lusaka – Zambia and Zimbabwe have stepped up preparations for the forthcoming United Nations World Tourism Conference (UNWTO), which they will co-host in August next year.
First on the drawing board for Zambia is the revival of the national flag carrier to fly in tourists and delegates to the World Tourism Organisation (WTO) conference to be held in Livingstone.
According to a government programme drawn up ahead of the meeting, Zambia seeks to revive the state-owned Zambia Airlines, which went bankrupt in 1994 due to lack of recapitalisation and poor management.
Plans to re-establish Zambia Airlines forms part of the country’s effort to boost the tourism industry in line with the government’s plan to realign tourism as one of the frontline economic sectors.
During a visit to London to attend the 2012 World Tourism Market (WTM), Deputy Minister of Tourism and Arts, David Phiri, said reviving the national carrier was inevitable, as it has become clear that the country’s tourism sector will not get to its desired position without a national airline.
In a statement issued by the Zambian mission in London, Phiri said it was imperative that Zambia secures its own airline, while creating room for other private players to achieve the objective of hosting the event due in August next year.
“The question of connectivity is a central factor in the development of Zambia’s tourism sector.
“This can only come about where there is a viable national airline.
There is consensus in both government and industry that Zambia needs a viable national airline,” the minister said.
Apart from re-floating Zambia Airlines, Phiri said the government has set aside resources for provide tax incentives for the next five years for individuals wishing to develop tourism infrastructure in the country’s national parks.
He said the decision to diversify the economy is intended to accelerate Zambia’s desire to become a middle-income nation by 2030 under the Six National Development Plan (NDP6).
Zambia has budgeted more than US$5 billion under NDP6 to attain the desired middle-income status.
President Michael Sata recently launched a road rehabilitation initiative under a US$5.5-billion budget to ensure various tourism centres and major towns are interlinked before 2020, as a measure to ensure infrastructure development in the copper-rich nation.
On October12, Zambia launched a US$6.4-billion national budget for 2013, of which about 50 percent was earmarked for infrastructure, as the country seeks to attain more than 7 percent economic growth.
Both Zambia and Zimbabwe have already approved their promotional programmes following their successful bid to host the 20th session of WTO Organisation General Assembly scheduled for August 26, 2013.
Zimbabwe Tourism and Hospitality Industry Minister, Walter Mzembi, said Cabinet had adopted all the recommendations of the working party of the inter-ministerial committee on the hosting of the event, which is chaired by Vice President Joice Mujuru.
Mzembi said the Ministry of Finance is expected to avail funds in support of issues pertaining to the development and implementation of critical infrastructure.
The minister said the co-hosting of the event by the two Southern African neighbours was a shining example of brotherly co-operation and regional economic integration.
Zimbabwe will require huge financial resources for the construction of a convention centre, shopping mall, upgrading of Victoria Falls and Harare International airports, completion of Joshua Nkomo Mqabuko International Airport in Bulawayo and refurbishment and construction of hotels and villas.
Funding is also required to rehabilitate of roads, upgrade fuel supply infrastructure and provide safe water supplies, health care facilities as well as develop a theme park and information and communication technology facilities.
The Government will further require resources for construction of museums, exhibition parks and halls.
This comes at a time when Zimbabwe, where tourism is the fourth economic pillar, has stepped up efforts to establish legacy infrastructure that will compete for conventions and business conferences in Africa.
Currently, South Africa attracts about 58 percent of all international conferences and conventions in Africa while Kenya is the dominant destination in Sub-Saharan Africa, besides South Africa.
Zimbabwe hosts the official opening ceremony of the general assembly and will need to display the highest level of organisation and positive image since the entire world will be watching, Mzembi said.
This comes amid expectations that over 400 international businesses will attend the global event seeking investment opportunities available in the country.
The UNWTO has given the host countries the latitude to make the event truly African.
The event is expected to bring together state presidents of the Kavango-Zambezi Trans-frontier Conservation Area (KAZA TFCA) which is made of Angola, Namibia, Zambia, Botswana and Zimbabwe.
But before the UNWTO convention, technical teams from the organisation's headquarters in Spain will visit the two countries at least five times to inspect preparations before the event.
Two regional delegations will also visit the country to discuss business issues that will feed into the main plenary issues to be discussed at the international tourism convention.
WTO’s Executive Director for Member Relations and Services Zolta Somogyi is expected to carry out the first inspection on February 26, 2013, while Secretary General Taleb Rifai is expected to visit the two countries prior to the event.