Certificate of recognition and the fight for growth and impact in Zambia

Sara Drawwater
25 October 2018
Since we launched the first clunky version of thebestofzambia.com, the website that started out as a side gig has steadily built its…

Certificate of recognition and the fight for growth and impact in Zambia

Since we launched the first clunky version of thebestofzambia.com, the website that started out as a side gig has steadily built its muscle. Our journey has been the very definition of hustle, so it was nice to receive this email in September.

“The Ministry of Tourism and Arts has recognised your contribution to the tourism sector and would like to honour you with a certificate of recognition at the event to mark this years World Tourism Day…”

Joseph Brown, CEO of thebestofzambia.com, with certificate of recognition from the Ministry of Tourism and Arts

And so, here is Joseph Brown, CEO, and my father, proudly showing off our certificate. Whilst we very much appreciate the recognition, let’s unpack the 2018 World Tourism Day theme— Tourism and the Digital Transformation.

“This year, World Tourism Day highlights the need for investment in disruptive digital technologies that can help foster an environment for innovation and entrepreneurship in tourism.” Zurab Pololikashvili, UNWTO Secretary-General

“Digital technologies have brought positive momentum to societies and economies around the world. They have connected us on a global level, helped to empower the most vulnerable and become our crucial allies for sustainable development. Our challenge is to continue harnessing this power for good while safeguarding against the risks.” António Guterres, UN Secretary-General

Are we seeing the effects of the digital transformation in tourism in Zambia? Well, in 2017 Zambia recorded 1,083,317 international tourist arrivals, compared to 956,332 international arrivals in 2016, a 13.3% increase. We are going in the right direction. E-visas and the slow but steady adoption of e-marketing by the tourism sector are having an impact. But I believe we are far from achieving our full potential.

We want to see Zambia truly on the international map. That will only come with:

  • Informative websites that are easy to use and up to date
  • Inspiring communication that ties into the current trends of tourism with a purpose, tourism that is ethical, environmentally conscious and meaningful
  • Quality service from enquiry through to delivery, arrival through to departure

How can we achieve this when we are working as silos? The government, private organisations like ourselves, and the individual companies in the tourism sector are working as lone wolfs.

On World Tourism Day, Acting Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Tourism and Arts, Mr. Reuben Zulu, said Zambia will continue to encourage innovation and the use of ICT in tourism in order to attain greater market awareness. My question is, “What tangible ways is the Zambian Government encouraging innovation and the use of ICT in tourism?”

As a private organisation we have not had any support from the Zambian Government (apart from our certificate). In fact, we have received more support from the British Government’s Department for International Trade, with ongoing support and matched funding opportunities. We’ve worked in partnership with PEPZ which is also UK funded. We were heavily involved in the inaugural Zambia Tourism Awards in 2009 but at the end of a time intensive process, and the distribution of some awards, our fledgling little company was left out of pocket, and that was the end of that.

Individual companies in the tourism sector fight their lonely daily battles too. In addition to the provision of their services and the running of their operation, they must also market themselves. But how? And when?

So they dabble with Facebook ads, post photos to Instagram and invest in their own website, only to find that it’s pretty hard to stand out online! All this talk of the glorified world wide web seems quite mythical.

The internet is actually a minefield of useless information! It is littered with out of date, incomplete, inaccurate information. It is a land of broken links and buttons, and frustratingly painful user experiences.

How can we change this? If we all believe that tourism is good for Zambia, how can we really tap into the opportunity? My belief is that there is strength in numbers, teamwork and communities. We’ve started something really good at thebestofzambia.com but we are not finished. We’re striving to create a community of Zambian businesses all wanting the same thing — to clearly communicate the value they bring and inspire action.

There is a lot of good feeling around our brand. Certificates of recognition and encouraging words from people who won’t pay us for our services are not enough for survival, let alone growth and true impact.

We are thankful to those companies who have supported us and forgiven our growing pains by paying for our services. With their help, we will dig deep to find the resources we need to finish what we have started.

As a team, the task at hand is crystal clear. 2018 was about enhancing our product — new website, new printed directory, new websites powered by thebestofzambia.com, new product marketplace, new proactive marketing support.

2019 is about enhanced marketing and service delivery.

Our hope is that the work we are doing will attract the numbers for growth and true impact. We love Zambia. We want to see it prosper, not the ugly scene we see right now.

We thank the Ministry of Tourism and Arts for the certificate of recognition. Now we invite your leaders to sit with us and work out how we can work together for the good of Zambia, its Government, it’s businesses and its people.

Whether that happens or not, we will continue to work with individual companies in the tourism sector and beyond. We will share our vision, strive to educate and inform as well as continuously improve our services. The fight for growth and impact continues…