It is exciting for Zambia to co-host the forthcoming UNWTO general assembly, a rare privilege we should take advantage of as we continue working to achieve economic development.The tourism ministry is working tirelessly to ensure the successful hosting of this world event. I am particularly impressed with how the Zambia Tourism Board is advertising the event. Indeed, Zambia needs to reap maximum economic benefits from this rare economic opportunity. Central Statistical Office’s Economic Census of 2010 indicated that in tourism, the annual average turnover per establishment was only US$382,000 compared to US$3.6 million, US$6.4 million and US$85.9 million in Transport and Storage, Construction, and Mining and Quarrying, respectively. This is unacceptable; I believe the sector must be one of the richest.
However, as we prepare for this event, it would be wise not to leave any stone unturned.
Is the Tourism Information System on the border crossings reliable in estimating the number of visitors that come to Zambia specifically as tourists, thereby having a true picture of the actual economic realisations in the sector? What about the private sector’s concern of low profitability due to the high cost of doing business stemming from arduous regulations and requirements in the industry?
I am confident the ministry is addressing the challenges of poor and inadequate infrastructure, limited investment, fragmented operations, policy and legal framework, and inadequate marketing, which normally affect the sector’s performance.
Zambia is so natural and these several beautiful tourist attractions in remote parts of the country will need to be admired by the coming tourists. What about the challenges of poor physical infrastructure, particularly roads, railways, airports and airstrips, telecommunications and accommodation facilities? Initiative where the government partners with the private sector in these areas is excellent and will be critical going forward. Indeed, hosting the UNWTO general assembly should go into the country’s history with significant economic benefits to the Zambian in the village.
By: Edward Phiri
Date: 16 April 2013