THE upcoming African Union (AU) Heads of State and Government Summit which Zambia is scheduled to host in July next year, will have significant benefits for the tourism industry.
The meeting will not only raise the country’s profile on international travel industry but also stimulate interest as a destination of choice for holiday and global conferences and conventions.
As a country and host, planning should commence now if it has not already started because the event further presents an opportunity for the Meetings, Incentives, Conferences and Exhibition (MICE) sector to package their services around the AU Heads of State and Government summit.
If well harnessed, the event will contribute to employment creation and income as well as increased foreign exchange earnings for the country.
It is hoped that Zambia will benefit from investments in tourism and recreation of infrastructure as well as increased business for Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs).
Since the event will unite a large number of people that participate in planning – from sponsors and suppliers to travel agents, there is need for local SMEs to take advantage of the meeting to earn business.
What makes this sector profitable is that MICE travellers usually spend large sums on local services, such as accommodation, conference centres, restaurants, car hire services and shopping, among others.
We therefore agree with Tourism and Arts minister Rodney Sikumba that for Zambia to maximise the benefits of hosting larger events, the events planners should begin to strategise now.
This will require taking stock of the facilities that the country has and their capacities to host Heads of States from the 55 member countries including their representatives.
In view of this, Mr Sikumba indicates that the Zambia Tourism Agency (ZTA) is taking stock of the capacities of the established facilities to serve as a guide on the size and number of events that can be hosted at any given time.
Taking into account the COVID-19 pandemic, this had a toll on the tourism industry, players in the sector need to put in place measures to ensure they are able to accommodate a large number of people and delegates.
Like the minister highlights, the MICE sector, according to research and market was poised to record US$38.45 billion in growth in the period 2020-2024, if it was not for COVID-19 pandemic.
Opportunities for growth in event management are vast and should be utilised particularly at such functions like the AU Heads of State and Government Summit.