GOVERNMENT’s intentions of transforming Livingstone into a premier conferencing centre in Southern Africa next year is a step in the right direction in terms of increasing tourist arrivals to Zambia’s Tourist Capital, Zambia Tourism Agency (ZTA) managing director Felix Chaila has said.
In his address to National Assembly on Friday during the presentation of the 2017 Budget, Finance Minister Felix Mutati said the Government would next year transform Livingstone into a premier conferencing centre in Southern Africa to leverage on the infrastructure developments that had been undertaken.
Speaking in an interview yesterday, Mr Chaila said Livingstone was an attractive destination but it lacked adequate conference facilities and hence the move by the Government would increase tourist arrivals.
“This is a welcome move because Livingstone is already an attractive destination and conferences will be an added incentive.
“Tourists are looking for destinations that have a diverse product range including conferences,” Mr Chaila said.
He said the move was also in line with the growing global trend of promoting the Meetings, Incentives, Conferences and Exhibitions (MICE) industry.
The MICE industry is currently one of the fastest growing segments of the tourism base world over as it mainly attracted local tourists.
Globally, the MICE segment carters for about 400, 000 events annually across the globe with a total of about US$ 280 billion out of which about 14, 000 are meetings, conferences, conventions and congresses involving professional associations, corporate bodies, religious groups and inter-governmental bodies.
Most tourism enterprises are now investing in conference rooms to capture this business segment which assures high room occupancy rates and increased consumption of food and beverages among others.
Mr Chaila said there was need to ensure that people who travel to Livingstone to view the Victoria Falls also had an opportunity to enjoy other facilities such as resorts and conferences.
He the Kavango-Zambezi Transfrontier Conservation Area (KAZA TFCA) region, which include five Southern African Countries including Zambia, had also identified MICE as one of the industries which could grow the tourism sector.
“During the 20th session of the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) General Assembly, Zambia had to partner with Zimbabwe to host the event because we did not have inadequate conference facilities in Livingstone and Victoria Falls Town.
“We also have been struggling to host large groups of tourists because of the same challenge and so the move by the Government will boost the sector,” Mr Chaila said.
Last week, a high powered delegation comprising of five Cabinet Ministers met China Africa Cotton which is planning to invest US$ 50 million to construct a world-class hotel and a sky wheel with a 5, 000 capacity conference facility in the Victoria Falls area of Livingstone.