Minister of Tourism and Arts Charles Banda has scolded the Zambia Tourism Agency (ZTA) for failing to avail him with sufficient information on relevant matters relating to the sector.

But ZTA board chairperson Peter Jones says one of the challenges the board is usually faced with is late funding for events.

Speaking during a meeting with ZTA board members at Kwacha House in Lusaka, Tuesday morning, Banda complained that he was not receiving adequate information relating to the board’s activities.

He, therefore, urged board members to ensure they sit regularly in a bid to identify pressing challenges and offer solutions.

“…To captain; to look at how the industry is supposed to function: identify what the problems are, and propose what the solutions are supposed to be; that’s the job of a board! And I will encourage you, chairman, that you should have regular meetings than a meeting after two years! It’s not healthy!” Banda exclaimed.

“We are supposed to meet time and again so that you are briefing me on the progress we are making. Remember, tourism, as a sector, has been upgraded to number two key economic sector in this country after agriculture because of the potential it has.”

He complained that the ZTA board’s failure to feed the Ministry with reliable information equally leads to the Tourism Ministry’s failure to effectively supervise the sector.

“If I will not have information on what you are doing, and if I, as Minister of Tourism, will not have possible solutions to the problems that we have, then we are not doing anything! You are failing me, and I will be failing you! And you always believe that ‘the Minister is not representing us enough.’ But the problem will be that I don’t go to meetings with enough information to know exactly where we are,” he lamented.

But Jones counter-argued Banda’s assessment of the ZTA board’s performance, insisting that one of the challenges it routinely faced was late funding for events.

He gave an example of the just-ended Internationale Tourismus-Börse (ITB) Berlin, where ZTB representatives were only able to feature at the global showpiece event with only a couple of days left due to delayed funds.

“Marketing needs the financial resources way ahead of time in order to set up the meetings. Unfortunately, recently, we have only been given our money to go and attend things like ITB with two days to go!” Jones said.

He reminded Banda that other countries, such as neighbouring Zimbabwe, were better organized when it came to timely release of funds for important marketing functions.

“You must know that Zimbabweans had been out there two months in advance with their bookings already made, and then able to deliver. We can’t go to these meetings and sell Zambia if we haven’t got our diaries already open knowing we are going to be at that meeting,” explained Jones.

“Even the private sector people pay for their flights, hotels, getting ready to go and we can’t confirm it; it is a little bit embarrassing for us.”

Meanwhile, ZTA board head of marking Evans Muhanga equally complained that Zambia had continued to remain bottom in the region terms of destination marketing funding.

He noted that the Agency made significant efforts to collaborate with the private sector, but it still needed a normal budget to actualize most of its undertakings.