STEPHEN PHIRI, Lusaka
FOR the last two years, the tourism sector has been on its knees because of the outbreak of COVID-19. Various tourism sites across the country have been starved of visitors who bring in thousands or millions of kwachas into the treasury. Kafue National Park, South Luangwa National Park and the Victoria Falls, one of the Seven Wonders of the World, are some of the tourism sites that attract a huge number of tourists, both local and foreign. Among the people who are feeling the pinch for lack of tourists are tour guides, whose pockets are always full with United States dollars when the tourism sector is at its peak. The country has experienced a drastic drop in international tourist arrivals from 1.26 million in 2019 to about 500,000 in 2020.
Zambia registered the first two cases of COVID-19 on March 18, 2020, and since then the tourism sector is among the segments that have been hit badly. It is only now that the tourism sector is trying to open up with the launch of the Zambia Domestic Tourism Development Strategy, which will be used to sustain the growth amid COVID-19. The strategy will run from 2022 to 2026. Speaking in Lusaka during the launch recently, Minister of Tourism Rodney Sikumba said the advent of COVID-19 has brought to the fore the importance of having a strong domestic tourists base to sustain and drive the growth of the sector in the absence of international arrivals. “There is urgent need to position the sector on a recovery trajectory if we are to attain the aspirations laid down in the United Party for National Development manifesto. As we grapple with finding lasting solutions to attracting international arrivals amid the fourth wave of COVID-19, we need home-grown solutions that are sustainable,” Mr Sikumba, who was flanked by ministers of Finance and National Planning Situmbeko Musokotwane, Green Economy and Environment Collins Nzovu, Small and Medium Enterprises Development Elias Mubanga, Infrastructure, Housing and Urban Development Charles Milupi, and Information and Media Chushi Kasanda, said. He said the promotion of domestic tourism is one initiative that has potential for growth and cushioning against external shocks. Mr Sikumba also said the strategy aims at unifying local efforts to harness Zambia’s tourism resources and reinforce the role of domestic tourism in the national economy.
He said the strategy will be implemented through a number of practical measures such as reduced fees structure for locals, promoting a culture of saving for holidays, branding and marketing of tourism sites among others.
Mr Sikumba, however, said Government is aware of the need for adequate infrastructure to support the growth of domestic tourism. Zambia has 20 national parks and 36 game management areas which can be accessed by road or air. Tour guides operating in South Luangwa National Park in Mambwe, Eastern Province, have not been spared by COVID-19. South Luangwa National Park is CLICK TO READ MORE
Tour guides yearning for tourists
STEPHEN PHIRI, Lusaka