DECEMBER is the month of family get-together activities; when people travel from far and wide to spend the festive period with their loved ones.
It is also a period when many companies go on industrial break, and usually offer employees Christmas bonus packages, vacation incentives, or even a 13th cheque, as the extra pay is referred to in some circles.
Add to this a large number of Zambians based in other countries who decide to use this period to come back home and spend the festive period with their family members.
It is therefore a perfect period for those involved in the tourism and hospitality industry to intensify efforts to get visitors to their hotels, lodges and other tourist-related activities, as there seems to be some extra money in circulation.
The best way to do this is to prepare quality and at the same time affordable holiday packages for the emerging Zambian middle-class population that can most likely find time to sample some of the countryâ€™s beautiful tourism facilities.
Zambia currently has a growing middle class that is seeking value for its hard-earned money in the form of quality service delivery.
However, it seems that the tourism industry stakeholders may not have caught up to this realisation.
They have instead continued to only prepare for the high-end tourist who has excess funds to spare for five-star service, and the budget-driven sojourner, who will take the cheapest offer available without considering service or comfort.
In the process, many local tourism service providers are losing out on the high number of opportunities to grow their business as they neglect a potential cash cow in the rising middle class.
While Zambia has a high number of citizens working abroad who take the December break to visit their country, many of these are not necessarily rich in the countries they have decided to ply their trade in, but the higher economies in the countries they are based mean that they have slightly more to spend when they come back home to visit during the holidays.
These will usually come with their spouses and children, most likely born abroad, to show them the beautiful country of their parentsâ€™ heritage.
The sad truth is that many of these have gone back without the pleasure of enjoying some of the countryâ€™s deep heritage treasures from which they could develop a deeper understanding of their history and culture simply because of a lack of corresponding service from our tourism service providers.
To do this, the reputation of Zambia as a peaceful landlocked nation of warm friendly people offering good services in a clean environment and hospitable climate needs to be exploited and enhanced.
Some of the ways in which this can be done is simply to train employees in hospitality and treatment of guests. Other ways include the ‘innovativeness’ to offer the people the things they want in a very creative manner that will make them want to come back. That is one way to retain customers, be good to them, and they will be back with a friend.
Add to this training in the history of the related area so that they can easily convey the message to visitors.
I recently arrived just in time for dinner in Mongu, the land of my ancestors, and was looking forward to enjoying a huge sumptuous tilapia as the land is famed for. Alas, it was not even on the menu. When I awoke the next morning, I was told there was no breakfast since there was no power.Â That left me wondering: what happened to charcoal-fried eggs? Even a very simple meal can be creatively marketed to make a customer feel well taken care of.
In those plains of Barotseland, I saw a thousand opportunities for tourism; wonderful sites that I would love my fellow journalists to see and write about. Plains so beautiful they would inspire many souls to reach for the sky. I urge all tourists, local and foreign, to add this beautiful land to their â€˜must visitâ€™ areas. Unfortunately, I know I will not be recommending that hotel to anyone.
Apart from the Kuomboka ceremony, Western Province offers plenty that would please a tourist, attractions such as water sports and fishing on the Zambezi river and the annual Kazanga ceremony held in Kaoma district.
And it is not the only province with plenty to offer, I can safely say every province in Zambia has that one outstanding feature that could attract both local and international clientele.
It is up to the stakeholders to improve service provision that will attract the â€˜richâ€™, the â€˜not so richâ€™ and the â€˜barely thereâ€™ to all have that special opportunity to tour this land and be accorded special service that leaves them feeling respected and cared for.
The author is sub-editor at the Zambia Daily Mail.