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Minister of Tourism and Arts for Zambia introduces new draft tourism policy

Republic of Zambia

Ministry of Tourism and Arts

Statement delivered by Honorable Sylvia T. Masebo, MP, Minister of Tourism and Arts at the Opening Ceremony of the National Conference to Adopt the Final Draft of the Tourism Policy Document Held at Government Complex on 11th December 2013

I am happy to deliver the opening address at this conference which aimed at adopting the final draft of the revised tourism policy document.

This is a process that started in 2010. That we are at this stage today is a significant milestone in the development of the tourism policy environment in Zambia and I would like, in this connection, to congratulate each and every one of you who contributed in bringing the process to where it is today.

From the outset, I would like to thank the World Bank which has provided technical assistance for the review process. Not too long ago, my Ministry partnered with the World Bank in launching the Tourism in Africa report which has strategic recommendations on harnessing tourism to generate employment and accelerated growth and development on the African continent. I look forward to deepening the partnership between our two institutions as we go to the implementation stage of the tourism policy document once adopted by Cabinet.

When you have adopted the final draft of the revised tourism policy document, hopefully, today, the next stage will be to bring it before Cabinet. Once Cabinet has considered the draft and approved it, we will then enter the most important stage of its implementation. A lot of ground has been covered in bringing us to where we are today. I would like, in this connection, to urge you all not to falter but ensure that you deliver to Cabinet a focused and action oriented document that motivate Cabinet to adopt expeditiously.

Let me also point out that as we conclude work on the draft tourism policy document, related work is underway to review the Tourism and Hospitality Act Number 23 of 2007 in order to ensure that the policy and legislation are in alignment.

As you deliberate, I would like you to take into account the fact that Zambian tourism is currently under-performing. As an industry, we can do better and achieve more than what we are doing presently. In this state of unrealized potential, the role of the tourism policy document once adopted will be to enable us, during its implementation, to realize the full potential of Zambian tourism. For it to do that, the final policy document should be used as a leadership tool providing: vision, inspiration and momentum to all actors in the tourism industry. It should, in this regard, spur us to concerted action.

Let me briefly touch the issues of vision, inspiration and momentum because they provide the essence of using the tourism policy document as a leadership tool. In my view, the vision of the Zambian Tourism Policy statement should be to:

“Make Zambia an exciting and growing destination that realizes its full potential and rewards the tourist with unique, authentic and treasured experiences.”

As a democrat, I requested the Permanent Secretary to share the vision statement with selected members of the National Reference Group that has acted as the steering committee for the tourism policy review process. A powerful vision emerges out of frank exchanges among collaborators involved in crafting a vision statement. In this regard, while this is my vision as political head of the Ministry of Tourism and Arts, the final vision statement might be different after the National Reference Group has come up with a shared vision of the future direction of Zambian tourism. Whatever the outcome, the ultimate test of the utility of the tourism policy vision statement is that it must provide meaning, giving us a clear direction of where we want to be in the future while at the same time, mobilizing all of us working in the industry to move in that direction as we take spirited measures to implement it.

Against this background, the question that all of you should be asking is: does my vision pass this test? I believe it does and I will provide my reasoning. You are, however, free to think otherwise.

The word “exciting” in my vision statement signifies that there is a felt need or motivation for a tourist to travel to Zambia. Outside of business, family, religious and educational tourism, the average tourist has to be excited about the place before going there. This is the case world over. This also gives responsibility for us to market Zambia as a tourist destination and should, in the process, really excite the tourist to come and explore, and upon coming to Zambia, feel and live the excitement.

The word “growing” challenges us with responsibility during execution of the policy to grow Zambian tourism to realize its full potential. We must put behind us, the legacy of under-performance. There are many areas where we need to develop or grow Zambian tourism and its facilitators such as growing increasing tourist arrivals, making tourists stay longer in Zambia, diversifying the tourism product, removal of unnecessary barriers to reduce the cost and hassle of traveling to Zambia, providing affordable accommodation to all income groups of tourists, and, among others, competitively taxing the sector relative to immediate competitors.

The words “rewards the tourist” reflect the need to make the partnership between ourselves and the tourist becomes a win-win situation. The tourist must feel and experience the benefits of coming to Zambia. The tourist must conclude that the trip was value for money. With this satisfaction, the possibility of a return visit increases.

The word “unique” stands for differentiation. If we make our tourism a commodity, we shall not reap lasting benefits. To be competitive, our tourism must be different; it must stand out from the pack and become difficult to copy by our competitors. The word “authentic” stands for genuineness instead of our tourism being a carbon copy of some other product elsewhere. Just as we do not want others to copy from us, we must also not be copy cats.

The word “treasured” means travel to Zambia must provide a lasting and positive impression on the tourist. With that lasting satisfaction, the tourist becomes our ambassador and salesperson to potential tourists.

Like I said earlier, I am not elaborating to convince you to share my vision. I am illustrating the importance of a shared vision in an activity like developing and implementing a policy document.

A shared vision comes out of focused discussion which, as already indicated, has been delegated to the National Reference Group and, eventually, this Conference. My simple task has been, in addition to what I said earlier to demonstrate to you that a vision opens up possibilities and in the process ignites passion to realize the envisioned future. On another note, I have also just demonstrated that politicians can also be visionaries!

Let me now turn to the issue of the need for the tourism policy document to be inspiring. First and foremost, the vision statement itself must be inspiring. Your task, therefore, is to assess whether or not the vision statement that the National Reference Group and consultant will bring to you for consideration will be inspiring. In addition, the guiding principles, strategic objectives, intervention measures and institutional arrangements must also be inspiring. If they are not, demand that the document goes back to the drawing board. In a nutshell, as a source of inspiration, the whole tourism policy document must mobilize and energize us as stakeholders to achieve the currently challenging feat of realizing the full potential of Zambian tourism. What currently appears impossible must become possible.

After having studies the draft tourism policy document, does each and every one of you in this room feel and trust that the current draft is inspiring enough? Are we all ready and willing to fully engage in its implementation and align our efforts as stakeholders in the process? Is it capable of reinforcing efforts towards its implementation? I am asking those questions to force you to critically think as you review the draft; and if you are satisfied, to own it as your document and start enthusiastically contributing to its implementation once approved by Cabinet.

Momentum is the energy that will drive us to attain our vision as contained in the draft tourism policy document. The tourism policy document should encourage spirited initiative by each and every one of us towards its full and timely implementation. The interventions in the document should also galvanize, or stimulate progress. If it consolidates achievements, delivers successes that allow us to celebrate quick wins and also encourage us in coming up with new initiatives to lay the foundation for more future success, the policy document should then pass the test of galvanizing us to act.

Key to the issue of building momentum to excite us all to contribute with passion in the implementation of the tourism policy document is the need for us as Government to clear any obstacles that lie in the path of effective implementation. I will focus on this in a little more detail.

The draft tourism policy document has provision for an institutional mechanism for regular consultations between the Minister of Tourism and Arts and the private sector in the tourism industry. I would like to take this opportunity to reaffirm my commitment to having quarterly meetings with tourism industry actors. During these meetings, we should be able to deal with all issues of concern to the private sector regarding the industry and implementation of the tourism policy document. At the moment, I am aware that the 16 per cent Value Added Tax, visa facilitation, air connectivity, the Government Travel Office and classification of Zambia as a yellow fever area are some of those concerns.

Arrangements are underway to meet representatives of the tourism private sector on this and other issues. As we proceed to implement the tourism policy document, we should also use the meetings to discuss and clear issues that stand in the way of its implementation, as well as use the occasion to celebrate quick wins. Working together and promoting dialogue to develop common understanding should enable us to achieve outstanding results in the implementation of the tourism policy document once adopted by Cabinet.

The draft tourism policy document as well as the Cabinet system itself, provide for committee level coordination between the Minister of Tourism and Arts and other Cabinet colleagues dealing with issues of finance, visas, air connectivity, infrastructure development, health, education and training and physical planning; among others. In all these areas, my Ministry has to lobby portfolio holders as suppliers of the services that the tourism industry demands. Again I reaffirm my commitment to make use of this coordination mechanism to clear issues related to VAT, development of access roads into the game parks, Zambia’s yellow fever classification, introduction of electronic visas, visas on arrival, reciprocal visa free arrangements; among others. These coordination meetings will be held earlier than my quarterly meetings with the tourism private sector so that I am in a position to provide substantive policy reactions to industry players in the tourism sector by the time we have our quarterly meetings.

Although the tourism sector in Zambia is under performing, there are encouraging developments. I will share a few with you.

Building on the success of the seamless visa regime between Livingstone City and Victoria Falls Town in Zimbabwe during the 20th Session of the General Assembly of the United Nations World Tourism Organization the SADC Ministers responsible for tourism decided at their meeting held in Maputo, Mozambique on 29th November, 2013 that Zambia and Zimbabwe should pilot the introduction of a univisa at Victoria Falls. If this programme succeeds, it will be possible for tourists to see Victoria Falls from both Zambia and Zimbabwe with faster transit and no additional costs. The World Bank is providing technical assistance to facilitate introduction of the Victoria Falls univisa. I should emphasize that critical technical, capacity building and security challenges have to be met before the project can be implemented.

In the areas of investment, my Minister has partnered with the International Finance Corporation, a wing of the World Bank family of institutions to prepare a commercially attractive offer to international hotel chains to invest in hotels in our game parks and increase bed spaces. It is for this reason that my Ministry is lobbying our counterparts responsible for road works to construct all weather roads in the game parks. Once these investments come on stream, we should see a massive reduction in the currently high rates charged by game lodge owners which are far beyond the reach of ordinary Zambians or the average international tourist. Within the scope of preparing commercially attractive offers is also our desire to build convention centres and amusement parks to broaden our tourism product offering.

Air connectivity also has some positive developments. As recently announced by my colleague the Honorable Minister of Transport, Works, Supply and Communications, the Government is in the process of coming up with a national airline. The better part of the picture of air connectivity is that, according to our colleagues in the transport portfolio, air travel to and from Zambia is growing significantly increasing by 14% and the high and positive growth trend will continue in the next five to ten years. Against this background, let me take this opportunity to call upon the private sector in Zambia to invest in domestic air travel in order to boost competition and reduce fares.

Education and training in the hospitality and tourism sector are also showing positive signs. Private colleges and universities are either expanding establishments across the country or moving lecturers and equipment to the students who live far away from the established premises. The Hotel and Tourism Training Institute (HTTI) under my Ministry is also modernizing. It is partnering with institutions in Hong Kong and Turkey to introduce degree level training. My Ministry also plans to change the governance structure of HTTI. The Board of Trustees model has failed. The trustees have failed to mobilize resources for the development of the Institute. In addition, the Board of Trustees are neither accountable to the Government nor the private sector. To this end, my Ministry has sought a legal opinion from the Attorney General on how to change the governance structure of HTI in order to ensure that the Institute works efficiently and effectively in the public interest.

The Zambia Tourism Board was a major contributor in the success of the 20th session of the General Assembly of the United Nations World Tourism Organization. The Board effectively branded Zambia as a tourist destination through ZNBC, BBC, CNN and the tourism poster which won in the African category which is now on display at the headquarters of the United Nations World Tourism Organization. As we move into the future, my Ministry would like to see the Zambia Tourism Board attract more tourists from non-traditional source markets like China and India as part of our efforts to increase tourist arrivals and diversify source markets.

Like the sector of tourism, the sectors of wildlife and culture are also undergoing change. My Ministry has partnered with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the World Wildlife Fun and the Nature Conservancy to come up with a new wildlife policy and legislation before the end of 2014. Once this is done, we anticipate increased resource flows into this sector which we are bound to conserve not only for ourselves, but for future generations as well.

In implementation of the Presidential policy pronouncement made at the opening of the National Assembly last year, we are in the process of finalizing the Arts, Culture and Heritage Bill, 2013, which will see the creation of a single commission incorporating the functions of the National Arts Council, the National Museums Board and the National Heritage Conservation Commission. I plan to introduce the Bill before the current sitting of Parliament adjourns. The Bill also provides for the establishment of creative industries and the promotion of Zambian culture and food, all of which will contribute significantly to job creation and the differentiation of Zambian tourism, making it more competitive.

My Ministry is in the process of updating the current database of hotels, lodges, guest houses, casinos and restaurants throughout the country. We intend to embark on full computerization by next year as well as gradual devolution of licensing and inspection to district councils. This is also being complemented with field visits. Information coming out from the field visits so far shows that most establishments are complying with licensing requirements, but almost all establishments, especially those in rural areas fail on standards. I would like to urge all establishments in Zambia to ensure that they operate as fully licenses entities. In addition, I would like to urge them to improve on standards. Plans are underway to introduce grading of establishments in the country and those that fail to meet the required minimum standards will be downgraded. At this juncture, I would like to commend the Hotel and Catering Association of Zambia for partnering with us to improve licensing and standards. As devolution gains pace, the Ministry of Local Government and Housing through the district councils will also play an increasing role. With a fully operational licensing and inspection system, my Ministry should be able to significantly contribute to revenue generation for the national treasury.

The 2014 budget provides for the introduction of the Tourism Development Fun as provided for under the Tourism and Hospitality Act in order to promote product development, training, research and infrastructure development. The long term sustainability of the Tourism Development Fund depends on the introduction of the Tourism Levy. Consultations are currently underway with the tourism private sector on the modalities for this levy. I urge the industry to take advantage of this Fund.

The Ministry also established the Tourism Development Credit Facility which was eventually transferred to the Citizens Economic Empowerment Commission. We are, however, still responsible for administering repayments for disbursements made before transfer of the facility. I would like to emphasize that it is the obligation of borrowers to ensure that the money is paid back in order to promote development of the tourism sector.

Before I conclude this part, let me now dwell on the Tourism Satellite Account.

Tourism Satellite Accounting assists tourism destination countries with generating the necessary statistics needed to determine the contribution of tourism to the national economy. The Tourism Satellite Account hence is an accounting framework, based on the System of National Accounts that serves to define tourism and is used to compile and integrate statistics on tourism, to measure its importance to the economy, and to facilitate its comparison with other industries within the economy.

There are ten tables that need to be filled in for a destination to be able to use the Tourism Satellite Account, To do this requires the cooperation of all stakeholders responsible for providing tourism services and goods, government institutions such as the Ministry of Finance, the Ministry of Home Affairs, Bank of Zambia and the Central Statistics Office, to mention a few.

At the moment, Zambia is able to fill in at least six of the ten tables. For other tables to be filled in, we need to undertake specific surveys such as domestic tourism and outbound travelers. The Ministry of Tourism and Arts is keen to determine the real contribution of tourism to the national economy and has thus drawn the following road map on the issue of developing a system of Tourism Satellite Accounting in Zambia:

Firstly, we plan to appoint members of a National Tourism Satellite Account Technical Committee by January 2014;

Secondly, we plan to identify and develop parameters needed for getting more statistical information for establishing the Tourism Satellite Account by February 2014;

Thirdly, we shall undertake a survey and compile data by the second quarter of 2014; and,

We plan to have an experimental Tourism Satellite Account before the end of 2014.

As I conclude, let me emphasize that the tourism policy document is an important leadership tool. In this regard, I urge this Conference to give us a document that is forward looking and capable of mobilizing all stakeholders to implement it in unity and with passion.

I look forward to receiving the final document before the end of this month. It is now my honor and privilege to declare the National Conference to Adopt the Final Draft Tourism Policy Document officially opened.

I thank you for your attention.

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