BWALYA NONDO, Ankara
TRIPLES: Out of sand, sun and sea, Turkeyâ€™s resort town of Antalya is tapping â€˜goldâ€™.
For Antalya, sand, sun and sea are a highly priced jewel pulling tourists from all over the world.
The tourism sector in Turkey has set annual targets of 50 million tourist arrivals and revenues of US$50 billion by 2023.
Turkey has 7,200 kilometres of coastline and ranks second among 38 countries with its 436 blue-flag beaches mostly in the resort town of Antalya, whose weather is mainly tropical.
Like Antalya, Zambia enjoys a tropical weather pattern thatÂ allows for a broad spectrum of tourism activities. Overall, the countryâ€™s lake shores and beaches, with an endowment of fine white sand of the type found around Lake Bangweulu, coupled with unabating sunshine, provide a perfect anchor for tourism development comparable to the one obtaining in Antalya.
Since the Zambian government has earmarked the Northern Circuit for development into a pristine tourism destination, owing to the array of unexplored natural attractions like waterfalls, and other flora and fauna,Â the potential to turn the region into a tourism paradise using sand, sun and lake, as additional attractions, abounds.
This initiative can help Zambia raise the international tourist-arrival bar to unprecedented levels as isÂ the case inÂ Antalya, which attracts local and foreign tourists.
Zambia can take advantage of the long biting winter season that most of the western world countries experience to mop up tourists to visit the country and increase revenue collections.
To do this, infrastructure development around and closer to unexplored and potential tourist attractions like Lake Bangweulu in the northern circuit, which can be developed into a beach site, is key.
With a burning desire to see another Antalya in the northern circuit, the Zambian Mission in Ankara is engaging potential investors in the hospitality industry for infrastructure development to turn the region into an iconic tourism attraction where sun, sand and lake can be the pulling magnet for international tourists.
A leading Turkish hospitality conglomerate has since expressedÂ interest to invest in Zambia describing the southern African nation as a shining star which no serious investor can ignore.
Green Park Hotels and Resorts, which boasts of a chain of top-class hotels across Turkey, has earmarked Zambia for investment in the hotel Â industry to support the growth of the tourism sector in the country.
The conglomerateâ€™s president, Adil Ustundag, who held an investment exploration meeting with Zambiaâ€™s Ambassador to Turkey Miriam Mulenga in Ankara recently, said his organisation is convinced that Zambia presents great opportunities for investment which hisÂ company wants to take advantage of.
At the conglomerateâ€™s biggest hotel, Green Park Istanbul, the facility boasts of 541 guest rooms with 1,150 bed capacity, 55 meeting roomsÂ and a state of the art auditorium, among other facilities.
â€œApart from being peaceful, your country has a lot of opportunities and we are serious about coming to Zambia to invest in the hospitality sector,â€ Mr. Ustundag said.
And Ms Mulenga, who highlighted opportunities and incentives that were offered to investors in Zambia, encouraged the conglomerate to invest in the northern tourism circuit, where infrastructure is desperately needed to support the development of tourism in the region, which basks in an array of untapped tourism attractions.
â€œInvestors who come to Zambia are assured of investment protection backed by a stable political environment and unmatched incentives,â€ Ms Mulenga explained, adding, â€œZambia and Turkey are in Â the process of formalising the Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement (IPPA) as an instrument of guaranteeing protection of any investment that is brought into the country.â€
In raising the number of tourist arrivals into Zambia and bolstering national income, multiplier effects arising from this will include job creation and reduction of poverty levels in surrounding communities. An increased revenue will also accrue to local authorities and thus put them in good stead to meet civic obligations.
In the vein of supply chain, local farmers will be able to have a wider market to supply their produce to â€œGreen Park Zambiaâ€. Not only that, Â Â market for souvenirs from wood and stone carvings will boom since international tourists are known for taking interest in products that will keep memories of their visit.
â€œAs a Mission, we are upbeat in doing our part to contribute to the development of the northern tourism circuit and tourism in general. I am confident that the sun, sand and sea tourism concept can work well for us because we have all the natural resources in abundance,â€ said Ms Mulenga, who was taken on a tour of the Green Park chain of hotels in Ankara.
The author is deputy head of mission at the Zambian Embassy in Ankara, Turkey.
BWALYA NONDO, Ankara