Zambia seeks to boost tourism traffic
Zambia seeks to reclaim its ‘lost’ glory as one of the world’s favoured tourism destinations through the ‘Visit Zambia Campaign’ and remain competitive.
Zambia National Tourism Board says through its Visit Zambia Campaign, it seeks to double the tourism inflow into the country to 1 million by 2015 as evidenced by the increase in the past two years since the deliberate programme was initiated.
Ephraim Bellemu, ZNTB marketing manager said Zambia has launched a vigorous campaign to reclaim its name in the global tourism industry through various campaigns.
The tourism agency has intensified promotions through the visit Zambia programme through Internet and road shows mounted in various parts of the world, which has boosted tourism traffic inflow to 26 per cent this year from 24 per cent recorded in 2005.
According to Bellemu, the 26 per cent increase represented a growth in traffic to 600,000 this year.
The number is projected to increase to 1 million by 2015, given the zeal and budgetary support being rendered by the government to market the country.
“Our target is to reach 1 million tourists per year by 2015. We have mounted various road shows in various parts of the world,” said Bellemu.
“At home, we are promoting various tourism sites and spots including wildlife that is unique to other parts of the world.”
The tourism agency has joined hands with global leading news agency, Cable News Network (CNN) where a series of advertisements about Zambia’s tourism potential are being run alongside details about the country for entice potential tourists.
However, some tour operators believe that although Zambia’s aggressive campaign is a milestone in redeeming the country’s reputation, there was need for a deliberate policy to promote local tourism and make the local people access sites at affordable fees.
The tour operators have urged the ZNTB and the government to consider stabilising the price of Jet A1 fuel to allow major airlines maximise their operations in the country.
Barn Motel Managing Director, Jeff Dhar urged the government to encourage local tourism and encourage many Zambians to visit various tourism spots in the country arguing that most of them were unaffordable.
Dhar told local media that although the campaign meant well, most tourism spots were beyond the reach of ordinary Zambians and that local tourism, offered at affordable rates, would encourage many locals to visit sites and view animals.
Garden Group of hotels Managing Director, Gaudenzio Rossi urged the government to provide incentives for tour operators to set up businesses and regulate the local currency to boost the sector.
According to Rossi, most tourists, particularly locals, were hindered from visiting sites because of the cost of travel, high costs of accommodation and poor road and communication infrastructure.
“Zambia remains one of the best destinations in the world but tour operators need more incentives to encourage them to come into the country,” said Rossi, a member of the Africa Tourism Association (ATA).
“The cost of getting to tourism sites is being hampered by the poor road and communication infrastructure.
The ‘ever’ appreciating Kwacha against other currencies is scaring away tourists and someone needs to regulate it otherwise, we are strangling ourselves.”
Recently, former Sun International Hotels General Manager Boris Bornman lamented the bureaucracy in setting up tourism related business in the country.
He claimed that prospective investors were subjected to acquiring more than 74 licences before being allowed to set up business, a situation he said was a setback to the growth of the industry with vast potential to remain competitive.
“The tedious process of acquiring more than 70 licences is one of the factors frustrating potential investors in the industry and government should cut this red tape,” said Bornman whose firm invested more than US$65 million in its ultra modern hotel in Livingstone in Southern Zambia.
The cost of Avian fuel (Jet A1) to propel aeroplanes has remained higher than other countries particularly in the region, making Zambia an ‘expensive destination, according to Zambian Airways managing director, Don Mac Donald.
Mac Donald said it was imperative for the government to standard rate the cost of Jet A1 fuel and make it competitive like other countries in the Southern African region.
“The cost of Jet fuel has remained higher in Zambia than any other country in the region and we need to match with the rest in the region otherwise we are being forced to recover costs through airline tickets,” he said.
“Most major airlines prefer to refuel in neighbouring countries before coming to Zambia to save on costs and ultimately we are losing out in terms of revenue.”
Recently various tourists complained against the unabated appreciation of the Kwacha, which resulted in several tour operators and lodge owners revising room rates by more than 50 per cent and subsequently affecting the room occupancy.
The appreciating Kwacha, further dealt a serious blow on the industry when tour operators like the Garden Group of Hotels, one of the major employers of local labour, (paid in local currency) suspended recruitment to cost save and remain in business.