International tourism provides a vehicle for economic growth and the opportunity for progress for many developing countries. In addition, it can serve as a tool to improve cultural understanding, promote environmental protection and provide alternative sources of employment.
The United Nations proclaimed that 2017 was the ‘International Year of sustainable tourism development’. Now, finding ourselves firmly rooted in the New Year with the opportunity to reflect, is Zambia any closer to realizing it’s full potential and meeting key targets for growth in the tourism sector? Did the Zambian government and key stakeholders successfully collaborate to make tourism a catalyst for positive change?
The tourist sector in Zambia continued to grow in 2017, however, despite this growth, it remains largely off the map in comparison to other countries in the region with similar tourist potential, experiences, and products. An example to highlight this short falling is the comparison with neighboring Botswana that has on average three times the number of tourists of Zambia.
Zambia has a wealth of natural assets, from Victoria Falls to the planets largest mammal migration (Kasanka National Park Bat Migration) and endemic species such as Thornicrofts giraffe (South Luangwa National Park), combined with a diverse culture, vast wilderness and national heritage the opportunity for growth of the tourist industry is exponential.
With Zambia continuing to compete with neighboring countries the pressure is likely to intensify during the upcoming year following the overthrow of Mugabe and the created opportunity this brings for Zimbabwe to undergo a global tourist ‘rebranding’.
2018 needs to be the year that Zambia steps up its tourism campaign focusing on not only continuing to grow the sector but also on creating a sustainable industry for future generations to benefit from. If President Lungu and his government are serious about growing our economy, they must be serious about investing in tourism and protecting our wildlife through robust environmental policies.