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Crime, lack of safety can hinder growth of tourism

IMAGINE a first-time visit to a country and just on arrival, thieves steal from you.

Or maybe exploring a country where you find people fighting or engaging in violent protests.
Now, imagine if you again decided to choose a country to visit, would that country which is marred by theft or violence be on your list?
Definitely not. Because every person values peace and safety.
Crimes against travellers affect many people, besides the victims and their families. This is very true because unpleasant experiences by tourists at a particular destination are widely covered by the media or reported by tourists themselves to friends and families by word of mouth.
This, then, entails that the destination will be subjected to bad publicity and the number of tourists visiting will decline.
Such painful and disturbing experiences harm tourists, emotionally and physically. At times this goes to an extent where a particular tourist’s family and friends are affected by a criminal act. This occurs when attacks such as rape and murder occur.
This is why the economic development of any country purely thrives on the favourable environment which is peaceful and free of violence.
Crime and violence have a dramatic effect on the economic and social development of any country.
It also has an impact on people’s freedom of movement and generally the tranquillity of a given country.
In many countries around the world, especially in popular destinations, crime committed against tourists has become a major threat.
And this calls for implementation of different mechanisms and strategies to prevent crime from paralysing the tourism industry.
And for a developing country like Zambia, which is working towards diversifying the economy through the development of sectors such as tourism, among many others, maintaining peace and safety of all tourists, the travelling public and potential investors is cardinal.
Zambia’s tourism development is still in its infancy. And any disturbing incidents have extremely serious repercussions because crime generally stunts the growth of tourism.
One other issue that can hamper the growth of tourism is negative reporting by the media.
The role of the press in the dissemination of information about the tourism industry is important though it depends on what news is published.
It can sometimes not necessarily be experience, but could be negative publicity about a tourism destination.
This could be in a situation where a potential tourist or investor comes across news that there is high crime rate in Zambia or the tourist sites are not safe. If this was the case in Zambia, would it be a preferred destination for tourism or even investment? The answer is no. Tourism can be a limited and battling industry unknown to most people, especially if media reports are characterised by all sorts of crime.
Though the growth potential of tourism has been and still is threatened by many factors such as poverty, unemployment, and poor advertisement, crime is the biggest threat.
High crime rate, mostly reported by media, discourages both international and domestic tourists from visiting scenic popular destinations.
Tourists are sensitive towards travelling to destinations where there is crime, which may put them at risk.
But one would argue that crime cannot go unreported as it makes good reading. Yes it does, but why not balancing it by adding a little background information on positives achieved in curbing it and, most importantly, giving prominence to an article which shows interventions which Government and its stakeholders have put in place to fight crime.
Many countries world over have recently experienced high levels of crime committed against tourists and various researches reveal that this situation has had negative impact on tourism.
It is, however, worth noting that tourism has become an exciting and fascinating industry across the globe. The industry’s contribution to national and transnational economies is as enormous as its growth potential.
But every well-meaning Zambian should bear in mind that tourism is a human activity that is sensitive and reacts rapidly to situations of crime, lack of safety and security.
The author is a Zambia Daily Mail reporter.