Editor's Comment

Market tourism aggressively

THE only time many Zambians see the picture of the Magnificent Victoria Falls is when they hold the Mosi bottle.
On other occasions it is seen on some promotional material, but certainly not to the level of aggression that is expected of a country that seeks to take maximum advantage of this priceless natural wonder.
Despite the water which thunders on the ‘Mighty’ Zambezi River being in Zambia, and partly in Zimbabwe, many people around the world are evidently not aware of this.
Many think that the falls, locally known as the Mosi O Tunya, is in South Africa. This is so apparently because some travel agencies in South Africa market it as such.
While this may be so, some agencies could be merely marketing it as part of tourists’ package which starts with activities in South Africa.
Clearly, these travel or tourism agencies are aggressive and take advantage of locations that their customers could see for their benefit.
Who, for instance, would not want to see the Victoria Falls for a few more dollars considering that this natural wonder of the world is just “90 minutes’ flight from Johannesburg”?
Zambia is evidently not doing enough to attract more tourists directly to the country.
Some Zambian embassies/high commissions in various parts of the world are making a fairly good effort to do so, but still, by comparison, a lot still should be done.
The Zambia Tourism Agency (ZTA) should do a lot more. Understandably, such marketing does not come cheap, but if you don’t spend, don’t expect to reap much.
The biggest lesson Zambia’s tour operators should learn is that as long as the country’s budget for tourism advertising is a drop in the ocean, rewards will be just as insignificant.
Look at Rwanda’s aggressive marketing strategy of using one of the world’s most popular club sides – Arsenal. Millions of people are each week invited to “Visit Rwanda”.
Zambia is fully aware about what should be done to benefit more from its various tourist attractions.
More than a decade ago, adverts were being published in the South African media promoting Mount Kilimanjaro, the annual wildebeest migration in the Serengeti, Kruger Park and the Victoria Falls as one destination package offered and being called “South African”.
The promoters saw an opportunity to market regional attractions instead of single market segments.
There is nothing wrong with Zambian tour operators packaging regional opportunities with one ending with Table Mountain, for example, and forming strategic alliances with international tour operators.
In fact, given Zambia’s tourism endowment, a real Zambian package would be really attractive.
Instead of pinning all hope and emphasis on only the Victoria Falls, the packages should include national parks, traditional ceremonies, annual fishing competitions, Lake Kariba and hot springs like those in Shiwa Ng’andu and Chinyunyu.
These are, or should be, great attractions considering that some countries draw thousands of people each year for activities such as merely having a drive in a lifeless desert.
Compare that with the breath-taking game drives which bring one up close with the wild, and surely there should be no contest on which one should be the preferred destination.
To achieve this, there must be support facilities as well as teamwork among operators. Working in isolation increasing costs and discourages tourists, both local and foreign.
It is good that the recently introduced Tourism Levy is beefing up the coffers, but there is need for more resources and investment in the sector.
Investments should include infrastructure that would make tourists comfortable away from home.
It is no secret, for instance, that some tourists are discouraged from visiting some sites because there is hardly any accommodation worth talking about. The Chishimba Falls in Kasama is a case in point. This concern was restated during the recent Northern Province Expo. We hope for action.
Another example is that of facilities and activities in Livingstone, Zambia’s tourism capital. These are a pale shadow of what neighbouring Victoria Falls Town offers in Zimbabwe.
Given a choice, many foreign tourists opt to see the fall on the Zambian side and spend the rest of their visit, and money, on the Zimbabwean side.
This situation, right across the tourism strata, also hinders growth of job opportunities.
Zambia surely knows the solutions for this sector. It is just a question of walking the talk.

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