Sat, 27 Jan 2018 13:53:18 +0000
By ANNIE ZULU
ZAMBIA, a landlocked Southern African state is renowned as one of the countries on the African continent endowed with rich minerals and vast tourist attractions.
Added to this glamour is the country’s great potential to attract foreign investments in some of the vital sectors such as Tourism, Agriculture, Mining among other key sectors which drive the economy.
In the tourism sector, Zambia annually attracts tourism inflows which are cardinal for the country’s much needed foreign exchange.
Latest statistics from the Ministry of Tourism and Arts, indicate that Zambia recorded a total of 956,332 international tourists’ arrivals in 2016.
Among the most-visited spots is the mighty Victoria Falls, one of the Seven Wonders of the World which Scottish explorer, David Livingstone once described as the ‘Curtain of falling waters’.
Zambia’s flagship tourism product, National parks, such as the South Luangwa National Park and Kafue National Park and various museums are also some of the attractions which see the vast inflow of tourists.
But does it only have to be foreigners visiting our tourist sites and attractions?
Have we as Zambians exhausted all the tourist sites available to us? When was the last time you visited a tourist site in Zambia?
These questions expose the lack of a proper domestic tourism plan and the complete lack of interest by local folk to travel and experience the beauty and tradition of their own country.
In our quest to develop Zambia’s tourism industry, one critical facet we should pay close attention to is domestic tourism.
How do we get our own local people to travel, tour and experience Zambia?
Government and private institutions have executed so many plans and put in efforts to grow our domestic tourism.
However, as identified by John Mwale, a local businessman who intends to invest in the tourism sector, transportation is key to the development of any tourism industry.
According to Mr Mwale, there was need to improve the transport sector, if domestic tourism was to grow.
“Our transport sector is still bad and there is a lot that needs to be done,” he observed.
Sadly, out of over 15 million Zambians, others struggle to find a quarter of this number who have ever travelled via an aircraft.
Mainly aircrafts are believed to be for long distances and overseas travel.
However, these days with time and convenience being top of many agendas, local flights have become more of a necessity than luxury.
In Zambia, although the majority of airline companies that operate here are foreign owned, many domestic airlines have come and go.
Proflight, Mahogany and Starvia constitute the very few domestic airlines that fly to certain cities.
Although domestic air travel is at the minimum, its benefits and contribution to the development of domestic tourism cannot be overemphasized.
To improve interest in domestic tourism, more domestic airlines are needed along with very affordable rates for tickets.
Already existing airlines should also widen their scope by doing more flights per day/week to destinations with attractive tourist sites.
INTERCITY BUS SYSTEM
The credibility and surety seems to have eluded us when it comes to the intercity bus system in Zambia. Many of the stations or terminals are in very bad conditions and the buses are nothing to write about.
How easy is it to tour Zambia alone? In other parts of the world, many local people just get up, pack their bags and before you know it, they have gone round the country.
All they need to do is grab a ticket from one point to the next. Many times they book these tickets in advance online. The road network is effective and the buses are well maintained.
You may even find it difficult to differentiate between a bus ride and a flight.
What can we do in Zambia to develop tourism? Let’s look at revamping the intercity bus system where modern buses are available and are affordable for all locals to travel freely around the country.
Moving from Eastern Province to Lusaka and then to Southern Province shouldn’t be difficult.
At this stage, the interest would have been gathering with many more local people desiring to travel.
This particular point is one that always gets a lot of attention and hype but little seems to be done about it.
However, President Edgar Lungu announced during his official opening of the second session of the 12th National Assembly last year that Government intends to revamp the railway system in the country.
President Lungu assured that feasibility studies and detailed engineering designs for some railway lines are expected to commence soon.
Imagine going from Lusaka to Livingstone to see the might Victoria Falls in 45 minutes and at affordable prices. Why wouldn’t any Zambian want to travel and see such tourism sites?
Trains are quicker and link several cities and towns. There is no traffic with trains.
There is no doubt that modern trains as well as better railway lines are needed to make the railways in Zambia more attractive for usage. With this, interest in travelling for tourism will increase.
A taxi in the western world may refer to a more luxurious vehicle that picks you from one point to the other for a fee.
In Zambia, a taxi is a multi-coloured saloon car typically with blue used commercially to transport individuals from one point to the other.
Although taxis are deemed more luxurious than the minibus, you will find some taxi’s that do not deserve to be on our roads.
They are generally unsafe and endanger the lives of everyone by merely being on the road. The state of some taxis in major cities often deter many local people from going on tour.
In Samfya for example, there are some beautiful places that one can visit but without a personal car, you may have to need a taxi.
Since many people don’t trust the quality of these modes of transport which often come at quite high fares also, they are not motivated in any way to tour their immediate environments.
Most of the modes of transportation in Zambia use roads. Bad roads mean limited or no access to destinations of interest.
For tourism, without good roads, many people will not be pushed into leaving their comfort zones.
Many of our historic tourist sites are located in far away towns and villages which make it difficult to access.
When good buses and vehicles are provided, they would need good roads to run on.
If it’s easy and fast to move from one tourist site to the other, why won’t anyone want to travel? Even those with personal cars won’t have a problem driving from their homes just to enjoy some time at a nearby tourist destination with their families.
Improving the transport sector by providing all the above state while ensuring a proper maintenance culture will definitely help grow our domestic tourism.
To sell Zambia to the outside world, we as Zambians first need to travel. An effective transportation system will make domestic tourism accessible and affordable to all.