ztIt is interesting that people are not talking about the advertisements on CNN and BBC promoting Zambia as a destination.

It is a big deal – and we should give due and accolades to the Ministry of Tourism and Arts and the Zambia Tourism Board. Instead people wine that nothing much is being done about promoting Zambia and I really sometimes wonder what is expected. When will the tourism industry in Zambia cooperate and put all hands on the deck? Whatever is done, is never enough.

We have the forthcoming Zambia International Travel Expo in Lusaka from the April 25-27, 2013 in Lusaka. It is the sixth time that it is being held. I recall visiting the second annual expo and I gave the organisers my input. They brought me on board for the third and fourth expo. By no means was there perfect organisation for various reasons. However, there was significant improvement. This expo is a private sector initiative and has support from ZTB.

Many tourism establishments prefer to go to Indaba in Durban in May where they compete with other Southern African countries for the business. When there is something organised on their doorstep right here in Zambia, it’s still not enough.

My background before eight years with DHL Int. was 15 years in the hotel industry in Zimbabwe. I worked at Sheraton Harare Hotel, Meikles Hotel and Rainbow Hotels and in my capacity as Sales and Marketing Manager, I attended more expos during this time than I can count. Although very competitive and fiercely so, I recall Victoria Safari Lodge and Cresta Group of Hotels insisting that Meikles Hotel where I worked participate at World Travel Market in London. We just didn’t have the foreign currency available and both those competitors invited me to share a flat which I didn’t pay towards.

They said that Meikles Hotel as a premier hotel just had to be part of the delegation. I so miss that here in tourism in Zambia. I miss the positivity and the network of colleagues and friends who will say; Yes we are in and how can we help?!

There is a lack of interest in selling Zambia first and individual products as the next step.

When I look at the landscape of the exhibitors for this year’s ZITE – it is pleasing to see a cross section of new entrants to tourism from Chingola, Katete and various provinces as well as established lodges and hotels. This year there has been notable support from the Lusaka top hotels and a keenness to work for the interest of the industry. This is indeed heartening.

Travel shows in the major source markets are usually wholesale shows. That means that they deal with buyers – who are tour operators selling packages to tourist destinations. With the advent of the Internet, it is easier to research destinations. However, those operators worth their salt will visit and experience a destination and product before including it in their itineraries.

Zambian products outside of Livingstone can bemoan the fact that the focus for advertising is weighted towards Livingstone. Today tourism products competition and travellers from Europe and America to Africa will choose South Africa and extend to Livingstone or Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe. The objective is to get longer stays in Zambia. That means we have to have wholesale buyers experience the products. The 30 hosted buyers from South Africa, attending ZITE 2013 are going to Lower Zambezi, Kafue or Livingstone. ZTB are hosting buyers from Spain and Italy as well.

Many of the established lodges have no interest in new business as they have established communications over the years with regular suppliers. Three of the Lusaka top hotels are hosting the buyers and then lodge owners and airlines have been very generous as well. The buyers cannot travel without the discounts afforded by the airline flying Johannesburg-Lusaka. In fact nothing can happen without the airlines.

We have seen the increase in flights to Zambia and this indicates that besides UNWTO there is activity in trade and in tourism.

There are exhibitors whose market is domestic, corporate and groups. The visitors to ZITE that will feed this are travel agents, Government departments, Diplomatic Missions and NGO’s as well as corporate businesses. We invite these sectors to attend and find out about the products and meet the managers and team that run them.

Car hire companies, local travel agents are needed by the “buyers.” Destination management companies and local tour operators are necessary so that the buyers can purchase from one source.

The Copperbelt business has grown and there is a new hub being created by flight into Ndola from Johannesburg.

The airlines largely deal with outbound business and the source of clients is from the general public and corporate market.

Zimbabwe, Malawi and Botswana Tourism Associations are participating in ZITE. They know that clients ask for extensions into Zambia and they would like to tap into the buyers coming to ZITE. They also want to meet the local suppliers and form relationships and obtain rates and information.

ZITE’s theme is: Investing in Tourism beyond UNWTO and there is a conference on the first day featuring information for SME’s in Zambia.

Everyone is an Ambassador for Zambia and the way Zambians talk about the country is what will create confidence and inspire visitors to come and visit and come again and stay longer. We want Zambia to be the preferred Southern African destination in the next five years.

We have to work together for Zambia and it has to start with everyone in the tourism industry.

Carol White is Zimbabwean and has lived in Zambia for 7 years 5 months and is the managing director for Chas Everitt International Property Group and the project manager for ZITE 2013. Carol is a regular speaker at corporate functions and also runs training courses and workshops in team building, customer service, sales management, conflict resolution and brainstorming for strategic plans.

From: www.postzambia.com

By: Carol White

Date: 11 April 2013