AS WE start preparing for the festive season “take a holiday, have it local”, we have all the reasons to take it local because an international travel blog, Wego, named Zambia as one of the safest African tourism destinations based on data obtained from “Our World in Data”.
Zambia is the fourth safest tourism destination ahead of Uruguay and Saudi Arabia, while Australia, New Zealand and Singapore are the top three in that order, according to an article published on the Wego Travel Blog website, entitled “Safe Places to Travel During COVID-19 pandemic”.
The ranking is based on the standards of the European Union countries to coordinate travel restrictions.
Of the 70 countries with sufficient data and testing, only six were ranked as “safe” for travel.
The classification was based on epidemiological criteria, regarding the ability of countries to contain COVID-19, achieve stability over a long period of time, and efficiency of the health system, particularly the clinical capacity for intensive care rooms and efficient medical staff.
Zambia ranked fourth with 264 examinations per million people, with 0.7 percentage point of new cases per million people.
Cuba followed in fifth place with 774 examinations per million inhabitants, with 0.4 percentage point of 3.5 new cases per million inhabitants.
Australia topped the results of the tests in terms of positive coronavirus swabs conducted on 1.693 per million people, with 0.0 percentage point of 0.5 new cases per million people.
New Zealand ranked second with 1,365 tests per million inhabitants, with 1 percent of 0.8 million new cases per million inhabitants.
Singapore came third with 4,491 tests per million people, 0.0 percentage point out of 1.3 new cases per million people.
Saudi Arabia has conducted more than 1.5 million laboratory tests for coronavirus, of which 0.6 percentage point are positive samples out of 8.8 new cases per million people.
Zambia’s top-five ranking makes it attractive as a tourism destination during the COVID-19 period.
The global economy continues to suffer the net effects of COVID-19, which has killed thousands of people and crippled businesses.
The tourism and aviation sectors have been the hardest hit by this pandemic.
The Wego rating can be found on blog.wego.com.
Economic sectors opened
On May 8, 2020, President Edgar Lungu announced, in responding to COVID-19, that Government was striking a delicate balance between saving lives and restoring the economy.
President Lungu stated that COVID-19 and its evolution had compelled governments the world over to implement drastic measures to fight the disease, and Zambia was no exception.
Globally, nations had experienced low economic activity resulting in reduced revenue, thereby impacting negatively on the financing of national programmes. The head of State cautioned that if this status quo was to remain the same, the economy was headed for a crisis.
The President was mindful of the need to steadily progress into living in the “new normal” for the sake of our health and the health of our economy and went on to restore some of the business sectors.
To date, Zambia is now open for business and tourism bearing in mind the COVID-19 health regulations already in place.
Tourism sector safety protocols
The Ministry of Tourism and Arts, through the Zambia Tourism Agency (ZTA) and other stakeholders, developed the COVID-19 safety protocols for the tourism sector as a call to action for implementation of the various guidelines stipulated in the protocols.
These protocols were developed after a consultative stakeholder meeting with the Ministry of Tourism and its statutory bodies and the tourism value chain.
The launch of the protocols signalled the full resumption of the tourism sector across the country.
Further, ZTA benchmarked with key destinations like South Africa and Kenya to ensure that the protocols developed were properly aligned with the World Health Organisation, United Nations World Tourism Organisation and World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) guidelines, including Zambia’s Ministry of Health.
In addition, ZTA engaged the Immigration Department and Zambia Airports Corporation Limited to append to a tripartite communiqué that addressed the revised entry requirements for all incoming travellers during the new normal.
Safer tourism resilience seal
Granted by resilience travel initiatives, the seal recognises commitment to safer tourism, an evaluation based on a destination’s safety protocols for the tourism sector.
World Travel Tourism Council Safe Travels Stamp
To give further validation for the protocols, ZTA applied to the WTTC for the “Safe Travels Stamp” and was granted approval in October 2020.
Zambia was the fifth country in Africa to obtain the safe travels stamp from the WTTC.
The WTTC-branded stamp will allow travellers to recognise governments and organisations around the world that have adopted health and hygiene global standard protocols to enhance their visitor experience through safety.
CNN Travel 20 best places to visit in 2020
Zambia made it to the top list of the 20 best places to visit in 2020 by CNN Travel. CNN editors nominated some of their favourite places for their annual visits and Zambia was one of them.
In a report entitled ‘Add These Top 7 Under-The-Radar African Safaris To Your Bucket List’, Zambia’s Lower Zambezi National Park was described as a place that offered tourists “much more” than other parks and safaris in Africa.
The report was authored by Sandra MacGregor, a Canadian writer and editor who specialises in travel, food and wine.
Zambia’s ranking also included positive citations of attractions such as the Victoria Falls, which the author said is better viewed from the Zambian side.
What do these endorsements mean for destination Zambia?
The excellent reviews the country continues to receive from international media/bloggers are expected to have a positive spin on tourist arrivals in the country. This would in turn enhance earnings from tourism, which can significantly contribute to creation of jobs and generation of wealth.
A top-five rating for Zambia by an international agency during the COVID-19 period that has restricted the number of countries people can travel to has made the southern African nation a notable destination.
The rating is great for the country to boost tourism and stimulate the economy during this ´unpredictable´ era as the virus continues to kill and stifle businesses across the globe.
Thus far, Zambia has recorded 357 fatalities and a total of 20,177 infections, according to official statistics, against the global figures of 1.77 million and 81.2 million respectively.
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