The Zambian Ministry of Tourism has been working very hard on reforming and supporting its sector as one of the key motors of the national plan to launch the country to a status of a middle-income state by 2030. In this period, the country’s aim is to double its annual GDP which currently stands at 4%. Minister of Tourism Charles Banda and his team are optimistic and enthusiastic about achieving this goal.
European Times: Could you highlight some of the priorities which you were addressing in the past several years?
Charles Banda: Essentially, we are working to improve our tourism products and maximise their sales.
One of our top developments is Northern Circuit, a new area with tourism potential which we have opened. A fully integrated tourism resort is under construction at Kasaba Bay in Nsumbu National Park. Work has already begun on major infrastructural developments, including a new runway at Kasama Airport which is to be completed this year. There has been an increase in the development of hotels and lodges, as a result of the stable macroeconomic environment and investment climate. Zambia successfully co-hosted the United Nations World Tourism Organisation General Assembly several years ago, which put the spotlight on the country as a tourist destination through widespread global media coverage and catalysed developments and upgrades of various infrastructures as well.
We are constructing a new, ultra-modern facility at Kenneth Kaunda International Airport in Lusaka. Another international airport will be built in Ndola. We will work with our national carrier to operate strategic routes by direct flights.
European Times: How many tourists are coming into your country and what are Zambia’s competitive advantages in tourism?
Charles Banda: Our unique culture gives us a competitive edge which is why we launched the Pamodzi Carnival, and the Livingstone Cultural Arts Festival as permanent features on the Zambian Tourism Calendar, showcasing our diverse culture, cuisine, arts and crafts, dance and music.
In 2015, we had over 945.000 tourist arrivals, in 2016 we had over 1.128.000 visitors, and in 2017 we received over 1.340.000 entries.
European Times: Which immediate challenges do you need to overcome and how do you plan to achieve sustainable financial support for your sector?
Charles Banda: Lack of sufficient all-weather roads and other infrastructure has negatively affected the industry. One of the methods to achieve financial sustainability is our new tourism fund based on a particular levy, which will ensure the development of new infrastructure and products based on thorough research and take tourism marketing to a more advanced level. We will increase the accessibility of tourist areas, recruit and train more wildlife police officers and strengthen partnerships with the key stakeholders in the tourism industry.
I call on investors to visit Zambia, explore the many opportunities it offers and enjoy our beautiful country, its nature, wildlife and culture.