Snr Chief Mukuni
As Livingstone city gears up to host the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) General Assembly this August, one man who has been keeping a keen eye on the preparations is Chief Mukuni of the Leya people in Kazungula District. This event is important to the traditional leader because it is being hosted in his chiefdom.

Speaking to the B & R at his Mukuni Palace, 7 kilometres east of the Victoria Falls, the chief said: “In terms of preparations, we are on course. We could even hold it tomorrow as far as I am concerned.”

He justified his optimism by saying that every time the delegation from UNWTO headquarters has visited Zambia’s Livingstone and Victoria Falls town of Zimbabwe they have said “both countries are on top of the preparations”. Chief Mukuni explained that the hosting of the event is not in itself important but the rewards that would follow.

“To me the important thing is not this one-off event that is going to happen but the rewards that are to be ripped after it. You see it brings together people who are making the regulations in the world – regulations on how tourism must be run and how tourism must be regulated and things like that for the entire world.”

Livingstone is racing against time to get all the promised facilities in place before the event. Works at both the town centre market and the bus terminus are progressing albeit at a very slow pace. The same could be said about the Mosi-O-Tunya Road which still has a portion that has not been tarred. But Chief Mukuni said there are positives to be learnt from what has been achieved so far.

“When you look at the local council here, it managed to remove street vendors from the city to a designated area. I think among Zambia’s cities we are the first ones who have managed to move the street vendors away from the city to a designated place. Maybe cities like Lusaka, Kitwe and Ndola who still have this problem should learn from us.”

The chief also points to the public and private institutions working together for the successful hosting of the event as another positive thing. “But most importantly is that this (event) has created a health public private partnership relationship. Prior to this, we had the two institutions working in isolation. But now of this event is working as a catalyst to bring the two together for the benefit of improving tourism.”

Zambia and Zimbabwe got their chance to co-host the principal gathering of the UNWTO, when delegates at the 19th session of the General Assembly held in South Korea unanimously voted in favour of the two countries. The General Assembly brings together members of the UNWTO every two years to consider the budget and programme. “And what is more important before this (event) Zambia and Zimbabwe were working as individual countries,” Chief Mukuni said of the two countries. “Through this UNWTO they have come together.”

He added: “Actually if we were to get anywhere onto the world tourism market we must work in tandem. We must cooperate with each other so that we are not in competition. We must complement each other and that way I think that is what has been lacking.”

The traditional leader who is the 19th on the throne, observed that the UNWTO will boost Livingstone’s tourism potential and increase its visibility on the world map. “So far it has the effect of actually improving infrastructure within Livingstone to the extent that the town has become a fitting tourism capital of Zambia.”

He further noted that Livingstone town will never be the same after the event. “Now for Livingstone, generally it means we are going to remain with very clean roads. It leaves us with clean shops, clean infrastructure and the hotels do know what is expected of them.”

The 20th UNWTO General Assembly will be held from 24 to 29 August 2013 in the towns of Livingstone and Victoria Falls in Zambia and Zimbabwe respectively.

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