ART YAK with CHANDA MWENYA
ONCE again Government has recognised tourism as one of the strategic sectors to improve the fortunes of the economy.
In his budget address to Parliament last week, Minister of Finance Felix Mutati saidÂ â€œGovernment is to implement the Tourism Development Fund as provided for in the Tourism and Hospitality Act. The Fund will support tourism product development, tourism infrastructure and tourism marketing.Â This is intended to enhance the sectorâ€™s contribution to employment and wealth generation. It will also enhance the capacity to safeguard our wildlife resources.
â€œAs part of our strategy to boost tourism in Zambia, Government will work with the private sector to come up with an integrated approach to develop the sector. This will ensure that initiatives that have commenced are completed before embarking on new ones. In this regard, Government will in 2017 work to transform Livingstone into a premier conferencing centre in southern Africa to leverage on the infrastructure developments that have been undertaken,â€ Mr Mutati said.
I have on this platform previously indicated how the economy could benefit from proper management and marketing of tourism.
If the tourism sector is properly managed, it could immensely contribute to the countryâ€™s gross domestic productÂ (GDP).
The implementation of the Tourism Development Fund, as provided for in the Tourism and Hospitality Act, is a positive measure that will certainly help to develop the tourism sector.
The Finance minister said through the implementation of the Tourism Development Fund, Government intends to support tourism products, develop tourism infrastructure and tourism marketing.
But, each of the three areas outlined above – tourism products, tourism infrastructure and tourism marketing – requires concerted planning and management.
The challenge of developing tourism products is characterised by the diverse scope of individual products within the paradigm.
For instance, visual arts, food, dance, theatre, architecture and traditional ceremonies are some of the cultural products that tourism thrives on and are quite complex in nature.
Managing and marketing the above mentioned cultural products can be an intimidating undertaking and therefore requires specialised proficiency.
Developing tourism infrastructure is even more demanding as other complementarities such as roads and accommodation ought to be developed as well.
Perhaps, road infrastructure stands out on top of the list, because good roads are an effective medium of communication without which the tourism industry is bound to fail.
In this case, developing tourism infrastructure will require Government constructing specific roads to facilitate access to certain important tourism sites.
One such site is the historical Ingombe Ilede near the confluence of the Zambezi and Lusitu rivers, in Siavonga district of Southern Province.
In the 14th century, Ingâ€™ombe Ilede was a commercial hub for ivory, gold, copper and slaves.
It was also a trade route to the Indian coast with commercial links with the Mwenemutapa Empire of the present day Zimbabwe.
The place remains an important site which could contribute to the development of the tourism sector, given a good road leading to the site.
Accommodation is also key factor in the area of tourism infrastructure and its importance cannot be over-emphasised.
The third component to boosting the tourism industry as mentioned by the minister is tourism marketing.
Arguably, Zambiaâ€™s tourism marketing has been quite undesirable.
It all started with the changing of the marketing slogan from the catchy â€œZambia: The Real Africaâ€ to the less appealing â€œZambia: Letâ€™s Exploreâ€.
While I appreciateÂ that there is so much to explore in this country, from Chililabombwe to Livingstone, From Nakonde to Sesheke, I still believe that â€œZambia: The Real Africaâ€ slogan and its accompanying video was a befitting and better marketing strategy.
Forget about the perception of â€œAfricaâ€ as a â€˜dark continentâ€™, Africa boasts of early human civilisation, with Zambia contributing a rich history to this.
So, letâ€™s allow the world to come and explore Zambia the real Africa.