Given Lubinda, the new Minister of Broadcasting, Information, and Tourism, visited Livingstone during the week to see the tourist capital for himself. He had a busy schedule visiting many of the tourist operations to see things for himself. On Saturday, in between a Jet Boat ride and a Steam Safari, he held a meeting for tour operators at the Zambezi Sun.
There were presentations by Kingsley Lilamono, Chairman of LTA, followed by one by Mr. Lubinda. Kingsley went over the LTA’s wish list for improvement of the economy for the tourism industry in Livingstone.
Mr. Lubinda then spoke. Before I list the bits of Mr. Lubinda’s speech which I can remember, I know many of you reading this will think: here we go again. What promises are going to be offered only to be broken?
Mr. Lubinda seemed to be talking from his heart and had some positive comments. During the speech he told us what he had already done. Firstly, he had stopped (for the time being) the new tourism levy, which we were all expecting. He felt that if the sector was not doing well and that Zambia was already known to be an expensive destination, how could the government add more to the costs? Secondly, he told us that he had stopped the signing of the new Hospitality Act, because he wanted input from the hospitality industry. He will be calling for submissions. Finally, he said that they were revisiting the ZAWA Act. He knows that tourism and the environment must work together, so the Act should improve the quality and quantity of wildlife in Zambia.
So, with that backdrop, maybe we have hope that things might get done. Here are the things from his speech, which I can remember and seemed important:
– Tourism is a volatile industry, therefore, tourism policies must be long term and must be through public-private dialogue and be for the benefit of the industry.
– The tourism industry must be honest in its accounting.
– The UN World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) will either make or break Livingstone (and Zambia) as a tourist destination. Planning must be done properly. The Commonwealth Agricultural Show to be held in Livingstone between September 15-27 will be a good time for Livingstone to practice.
– The tourism industry must always be one step ahead of government; government should follow with the proper legislation.
– The new one-stop shop for businesses in town will be used as a model, which may be followed in other towns in Zambia.
– The movement of the Provincial Headquarters to Choma should enhance the Livingstone environment. The town environment should be improved and needs people with an eye for beauty. The town should not get ugly buildings like the many he has seen in the town.
– The park needs to be expanded so that we can offer a better wildlife experience to visitors.
Although time was not with Mr. Lubinda to see the Kazungula and Sesheke borders, he sent a team there to have a look and will receive a report. He is aware that improvements need to be made.
While driving to town, he stopped at a road block where the police were stopping foreign cars. He asked them why the foreign cars were stopped. The policeman on duty said that often the foreign vehicles have not paid the correct fees at the border. Mr. Lubinda commented that the reason for the visitors not having the correct paperwork was because the Zambian authorities were at fault; the police should base themselves near the border to advise. He felt that Livingstone needed a friendly police service, because it was very intimidating when in a foreign country to be stopped by police.
Generally, he felt that the staff at lodges/hotels/activities were excellent. He did, however, notice a few which were not up to scratch. It was important to have a good training center so that staff can get proper training. Walter Mzembi, the Minister of Tourism in Zimbabwe, has stated that if Zambia comes up with a good training center, the Zimbabwe trainees will be sent here.
The airport needs to be completed on time and to be of the highest standards. Livingstone should be the regional hub for flight arrivals.
Domestic tourism has to be increased. Operators should find ways to promote this through low season prices or by getting the children to visit their operations. The boundaries of Livingstone will be extended to include Chief Mukuni’s area. Chief Mukuni had offered land on which to build a conference facility.
I think that was about it. There was no time for many questions, which obviously needed to be asked, so Kingsley said that any submissions could be sent to him and he would forward them on.