Editor's Comment

Convert potential to wealth

DURING a field day in Mumbwa recently, President Edgar Lungu voiced out his concern about Zambia having the potential to feed Africa but wondered for how long the country is going to be talking about this potential.
The same can be said about the country’s tourism.
There is probably no country in the whole of Africa that is as endowed with spectacular tourism sites dotted around as Zambia is.
Apart from the tourism sites, Zambia is also gifted with the best weather pattern ideal for tourism development.
The stable political environment and the peace Zambia enjoys are also significant factors in luring both local and foreign tourists to the many sites of interest.
In tandem with the peace is the citizens’ friendliness to visitors. Few countries can match Zambia’s welcoming embrace to visitors.
Yet Zambia still falls far short of its potential to be the destination of choice for more tourists than those that are already trekking in this direction.
Some countries rely on only a handful of attractions to lure tourists, yet Zambia, with an abundance of quality places to see, manages just about 1 million visits per year, if not less.
Zambia should be having more tourists considering attractions like lakes Kariba (the biggest man-made water body), Bangweulu and Chita; 20 national parks and 34 game management areas; museums; close to 100 traditional ceremonies; and copper mines.
It is a wonder why Zambia is not sufficiently converting the potential tourism has to contribute to sustainable development and poverty alleviation.
It is widely acknowledged that the most important economic feature of activities related to the tourism sector is that they contribute to three high-priority goals of developing countries: the generation of income, employment, and foreign-exchange earnings.
Given Zambia’s endowment in tourism, the sector is supposed to have a bigger impact on development of the country’s economy than it currently has.
Tourism is said to have been Zambia’s fastest-growing national economic sector for 2018 and it is estimated that it will create over 460,000 jobs in 2019. It is also projected that about 1.1 million international visitors will come Zambia’s way this year.
This is well and good, but Zambia needs to take even more pragmatic action to actualise this potential.
Borrowing President Lungu’s expression in Mumbwa, the country just has to do it for the good of its citizens.
Unemployment levels can significantly be cut by enhancing this sector, considering both the direct and indirect jobs created when there is more activity.
The economy would also gain through the millions of foreign currency that would be flowing into the country with the tourists.
Zambia should indeed move on from the rhetoric on ‘potential’ to being practical about unlocking this wealth.
It is, therefore, commendable that President Lungu has committed his Government to promoting the tourism sector as it is one of the areas for economic development.
President Lungu noted yesterday that tourism has a lot of potential and Government wants to see that more support is given to the sector in order to exploit its potential.
That is why United Nations World Tourism Organisation Secretary General Zurab Pololikashvili has said Zambia should use its tourism potential for sustainable development.
Mr Pololikashvili has noted that travel connectivity, which is seriously lacking in Zambia, is an important area that should be strengthened.
Government should, therefore, use the current robust road construction and rehabilitation to connect tourism sites, especially in the Northern Circuit, so that they are easily accessible by road and air.
While the country has the tourism sites, most of them are unreachable, thus rendering them white elephants.
Government should also re-visit some pronouncements such as the opening up of the Mbala airbase for civilian aircrafts.
Government recently introduced the tourism levy intended to spur the sector.
Perhaps, stakeholders in the sector should reflect on the tourism levy as to whether it has started bearing fruit.
It is a pity that despite the potential Zambia has in tourism, the country is yet to be among the top 10 with the largest tourism industries.

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