As we draw closer to the United Nations World Trade Organisation (UNWTO) General Assembly that will be co-hosted by Zambia and Zimbabwe, it is important to take stock of our preparedness.
I have no doubt we have adequate facilities to host the event and that infrastructure is in place to ensure delegates have a time of their lives.
What I would be happy to assess is the manner in which individuals present themselves, and how they represent their organisations and the country. Every Zambian, at home and abroad, plays a part in helping to market the country.
The UNWTO conference will come and go, and what is desirable is to see efforts being made that go beyond the event so that we continuously nurture a country-wide service based on quality or world class service. Each person, therefore, is an ambassador of the country that they originate from.
According to the Wikipedia Free Dictionary, an Ambassador is an official envoy; especially, a highest ranking diplomat who represents a state and is usually accredited to another sovereign state (country), or to an international organisation as the resident representative of his or her own government or appointed for a special and often temporary diplomatic assignment.
The word is often used more liberally for persons who are known, without national appointment, to represent certain professions, activities and fields of endeavour.
If you work, you carry the tag or image of your employer wherever you go whether on duty or not. Everything that you do, positively or negatively, reflects on the image of the organisation.
In a similar fashion, when you cross the border of your country, into another country, people coming in contact with you will have an impression of your country based on your action and conduct.
Just like families and organisations, a country can have a good reputation or a bad one. To maximise our tourism potential, one of the many things we need to do as a country is to learn how to market Zambia.
Marketing Zambia starts with being positive about the country, and being positive about what we have.
When you portray a country or area as negative, it is unlikely that anyone will want to visit the place.
The starting point of tourism promotion, in my view, is increasing awareness about the tourist attractions that we have as a country so that individual citizens have enough knowledge about key tourist attractions and places where a tourist may want to go.
Tourism information ranges from knowledge about wild animals that the country has, the national game parks, waterfalls, memorial sites, museums, hot springs, cultural villages and other interesting places. This is knowledge that someone may require to gather over a long period of time.
A number of Zambians that I have interacted with cannot tell the difference between a kudu and an eland,and have difficulties identifying certain species of animals.
Introducing a wildlife or tourism subject early in school may help Zambians know their tourist attractions and confidently market them. Promoting a positive attitude will also go a long way in helping Zambians appreciate local products.
Those producing local products should improve their packaging and hygiene in order to ensure superiority over imports. Increasing general knowledge at an individual level will also be helpful.
It can be quite irritating to have a taxi driver who does not know the names of the major roads.
Talking about names – those responsible for naming roads and streets should name roads and put signage accordingly. I cannot wait for a day when I can use a phone navigator to punch the address where I am going and get there without having to phone anyone for directions.
Zambia is one of the best tourist destinations in the world, host to the Victoria Falls, the seventh wonder of the world, but her people need to do more to market this beautiful country which is pregnant with potential.
Ask yourself, what role are you playing as an individual to market Zambia?
Date: 24 July 2013