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The media’s role in tourism promotion

The Zambia Conference of Catholic Bishops (ZCCB) has appealed to journalists countrywide not to concentrate on spending their resources on bringing out negative information about the country.

The Catholic bishops said dissemination of negative information had potential to divide society and consequently scare away potential investors.

They particularly urged radio stations to concentrate on bringing out information that could stir development in the country, which is endowed with a wide spectrum of natural resources.

The observation by the ZCCB could not have ever been made at a more timely moment than now when the country is currently trying to market its undoubted tourism potential to the rest of the globe for the sole purpose of economic freedom of the many Zambians currently living below the poverty datum line.

The extent to which some media houses have prioritised politics over practical economic issues facing Zambians cannot be overemphasised.

Instead of highlighting the rich position of the country in the tourism industry, some media practitioners have continued spending their valued time and resources contemplating where the next political utterance comes from.

But this is not to say the media should stop paying attention to what politicains say and do. After all, almost every thing that spins under the economic machinery of a country like Zambia does so about politics.

That said, it is important to note that Zambia is endowed with an array of tourist attractions that have the potential to earn the country huge sums of money in foreign exchange.

Small though some of these attractions may look at first glance, they hold antiquities that scholars from around the globe would be interested in investing their time and resources in.

A closer look at some of the ten provinces of Zambia reveals amazing tourist attractions that have continued laying idly at the expense of the much -needed foreign exchange.

If uncovered and marketed strategically, these tourist sites could attract both local and foreign tourists and eventually transform the lives of the many poor Zambians through improved health and education infrastructures which would automatically be born in these sites.

Central Province. One of the tourist attractions with undoubted potential is the Big Tree National Monument.

With a 50-metre wide canopy, this tree, deserted though it may look at first sight, is imprinted on the K100 bank note and was (and still is!) a “sacred” meeting place for people from all walks of life.

Meanwhile, Western Province. Fort Monze is one of the earliest colonial police posts to have ever existed in the country.

And Fort Zombe in Mbala of Northern Province is the only known indigenous fortress build in dry walls in Zambia.

If the history behind these rich national monuments was well told and shared by the media, Zambia’s tourism industry would be the most viable in the region, just as former Information and Broadcasting Services minister Mike Mulongoti attests.

Speaking in an exclusive interview with The Lusaka Star Business recently, Mr. Mulongoti urged the media all over the country to prioritise documenting these attractions.

He noted with concern that the media had continued to associate the tourism industry of the country with Livingstone and the Victoria Falls at the expense of other equally crucial attractions that remain untapped across the country.

Asked what has motivated media practitioners to concentrate on the few already known tourists attractions, Mr. Mulongoti said Zambia lacked professional investigative journalism.

He urged Government and other relevant stakeholders to consider investing heavily in investigative journalism if the country’s tourism industry was to boom.

“The reason the media have not explored these small heritage sites and marketed them to the globe is that they (the media) lack investigative journalism skills.

“Media practitioners must be able to do more than just report, they need to investigate and bring out the potential that lays idle these heritage endowments,” said Mr. Mulongoti, who is also People’s Party President.

He urged Government to come up with a deliberate policy that would trigger knowledge-sharing between local journalists and their international counterparts who had taken investigative journalism to heights.

Mr. Mulongoti further called for close collaboration between the media and the tourism industry.

The former minister is right on point. For the tourism industry of Zambia’s to realize meaningful expansion and contribute highly to the country’s economic growth, the media must begin to look beyond the political horizon.

They need to begin scanning all corners of the country for possible tourism potential.

Also, Government and other cooperating partners must consider investing in efforts aimed at rekindling the country’s investigative journalism.

Unless they start doing so now, the Zambian media will be failing in their noble duties as a conduit for national development.

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