According to reports, Zambia stand at the Tourism Fair in Madrid has been very busy, with Zambia’s commitment to host the 2013 UNWTO being a major draw for most of the visitors
Minister of Foreign Affairs, Given Lubinda, attended the show. At the show he was quoted as saying that Zambia and Zimbabwe should not duplicate efforts as they prepare to co-host the UNWTO, but work together instead.
In the meantime, an article in another newspaper stated that National Heritage Conservation Commission (NHCC) plans to construct a Conference Centre at the Victoria Falls in preparation for the UNWTO. The plan, according to the article, is to move the curio traders out of the area and use the space for the conference facility.
Given Lubinda said at a meeting at the Zambezi Sun a couple of weeks ago, that Chief Mukuni had offered land on which to build a conference centre.
It would seem appropriate at this time to have a meeting between government officials and hotel/lodge operators in Livingstone and Victoria Falls Town in order to find out what facilities are available on both sides of the river.
In 1991 the Commonwealth Conference was held in Victoria Falls Town so they know what is needed.
The Elephant Hills in Victoria Falls Town can provide all necessary conference facilities. According to their website they can accommodate 500 delegates in one conference room and the number could be increased, given the size of the rooms. They can also provide the office facilities needed during that time.
Sun International has conference facilities with capacity of 450 guests in one room. But Sun International was never built as a major conference center – it does not make economic sense in Livingstone.
It seems that Zambia is already feeling a need to compete with Zimbabwe by proposing two conference facilities – one at the Falls and one in Chief Mukuni’s area. Firstly, a conference facility at the Falls should not be allowed under the rules for UNESCO World Heritage and secondly the removal of the curio traders would be a terrible injustice.
Finally, there seems to be simply not enough time to build a facility of this kind in the time allowed. And, even if it is built, what will it be used for afterwards?
This UNWTO meeting should be seen as an opportunity to market both the Zambian and Zimbabwe sides of the Victoria Falls, hence the government should spend money on improving what Zambia already has, not on competing with Zimbabwe. Victoria Falls Town, historically, was the tourism center of the region; the town has nothing else but tourism – no industry, no farming.
Livingstone should not see itself as the poor sister; it has so much culture, stunning lodges, new airport facilities and roads, and, as Given Lubinda says, can complement Victoria Falls Town. Let the money to be spent on the people to rekindling their cultural dances and songs and honing them to perfection between now and the UNWTO. Let them get stunning new outfits and give our cultural heritage the facelift it needs … not a new conference centre which will become a white elephant afterwards.
And finally, no certain date for the event has been announced yet. With hotels and lodges already being booked for 2013, the governments may find that much of the accommodation already sold out, unless the event’s date is announced soon .