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A bright future for tourism

A bright future for tourism

Hon. Minister of Tourism and Arts, Sylvia Masebo
Hon. Minister of Tourism and Arts, Sylvia Masebo

Zambezi Traveller meets with Zambia’s Hon. Minister of Tourism and Arts, Sylvia Masebo.

She is impeccably dressed and greets me with a warm welcoming smile. It’s clearly been a gruelling week but there are no signs of fatigue. Sylvia Masebo is alert and ready, having swiftly dealt with a number of issues before taking her seat with me in the gardens of the Royal Livingstone Hotel. She is dressed in a long lilac silk dress with feathered yellow beading and matching yellow earrings and necklace – stunning; but I digress.

This is UNWTO week and being co-host to hundreds of international delegates is exhausting by any standards. “To meet high ranking officials in the industry, being on TV globally - because we have over 145 countries participating - was a great privilege. I have been told by the Secretary General that this is the best attended General Assembly since its inception. What that means is that Zambia and Zimbabwe are now known to all these countries.”

The United Nations World Tourism Organisation has 156 full member countries and 411 affiliate members. This is serious exposure. But what do the local people get out of it?

“I realised that I should use it to bring about benefits to the communities. We now have a modern international airport, new roads, we've improved water and sanitation supplies in the townships, we've put up a modern market and new legacy projects like an international bus terminus. And we did a lot of training in skills needed in the hospitality industry and employed a good number of people, particularly the youth and women.”

Tourism is one of the four pillars of economic growth and job creation for the national economy. Zambia's tourism returns peg revenue from tourism spending at US$18 million but the Honourable Minister wants this doubled.

“At the moment we are getting around one million visitors. With this event... maybe next year we are talking much more than that. Obviously that will bring with it the challenges of infrastructure like accommodation, transport and so forth. But that is good for us because that will generate more employment for our people.”

According to UNWTO statistics, Africa enjoyed the second highest tourism growth in 2012. Worldwide tourism numbers hit the one billion mark with travellers to Africa exceeding 50 million. Prospects for Africa are bright, with a projected 4-5% growth in 2013. The challenge is getting a bigger slice of that pie.

“We are now concentrating on exposing our culture. There is so much of it here. It’s unbelievable. I don't even know if there is any other African country that has such a huge, diverse and rich culture as Zambia has.”

I mentioned that Zambia had been described as a rough diamond. “We are hoping that the co-hosting of the UNWTO will make us shine like a cut diamond.”

Read more about the region in our destination guide:

Read more articles from this issue:
Zambezi Traveller (Issue 14, Sept 2013)