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ByChad J. Johnson

May 4, 2022

Much emphasis has been placed on promoting international tourism in Zambia, with little attention given to domestic tourism, which is often relegated to the role of buffer for the off-seasons of the tourism industry, when there are has fewer international visitors.

This is unfortunate following the recent turmoil that has rocked the industry. When international travelers were forced to stay home due to COVID-19 related lockdowns, tour operators were forced to realize that domestic tourism can play a key role in shaping the future, beyond simple revitalization of the sector after COVID-19.

When the influx of international travelers dropped by up to 80% and bookings were canceled due to global lockdown measures, Zambians were called upon to help the industry stay afloat. They responded to this distress call and took advantage of discounts and other promotional packages offered by certain operators. They also publicized special offers and the need to visit various destinations to help people working in tourism to keep their jobs.

For a country like Zambia, which attracts considerably fewer international tourists than countries in the region like South Africa, Namibia and Zimbabwe, the need to promote domestic tourism cannot be overstated.

Having a stable base of local tourists would not only supplement the small share of international guests in the tourism sector, but also help operators avoid the serious consequences of losing international tourists due to unforeseen circumstances at the coming. As mentioned earlier, when Zambians were called upon to visit the country’s tourist destinations to help the industry survive the impacts of COVID-19, many did. Imagine what can be possible if deliberate steps are taken to maintain momentum?

Promoting domestic tourism would also have conservation benefits. Zambia’s conservation sector is intimately linked to tourism. Public resources allocated to conservation over the years have been low. According to a report by the International Growth Center (IGC) in Zambia, between 2010 and 2018, only 0.6% on average of Zambia’s national budget was allocated to environmental and wildlife conservation. As a result, conservation activities have relied heavily on funding from donor organizations and tourism businesses. Boosting domestic tourism will increase profits for operators, which will translate into increased donations to the conservation sector. For the conservation sector, increased funding would ensure the protection of Zambia’s ecosystems and wildlife.

The government also recognizes the strategic role that domestic tourism can play, as it has been identified as one of Zambia’s promising prospects for economic growth and sustainable conservation. Earlier this year, the Minister of Tourism and the Arts, Ronald Chitotela, called on tourism operators to partner with government to reduce the cost of domestic tourism in Zambia post COVID-19. In a statement released to the media by the ministry’s public relations officer, Sakabilo Kalembwe, in April, the minister implored tourism operators to “see what they can give to the people of Zambia so that domestic tourism can be boosted.

Zambia is blessed with many beautiful landscapes and incredible heritage sites. The country currently has 20 national parks that are home to a wide variety of wildlife. This includes the world famous Kafue, Liuwa and South Luangwa national parks, which are among the greatest wildlife sanctuaries in the world. Combine that with diverse cultures and the many museums scattered across the country and you end up with something that can really be enjoyed by locals.

It should be noted that the promotion of domestic tourism cannot be achieved by government and tourism operators alone. We all have a role to play. As citizens of this beautiful, resource-rich country, we must extend the “support your local teamslogan to the country’s tourism industry because supporting Zambian tourism means supporting local businesses and local communities. And while it’s true that some operators may need to cut prices to meet the needs of local nature lovers working on a tight budget, there are plenty of establishments that are actually affordable. All we have to do is identify them and take advantage of their packages.

As global lockdown measures are slowly lifted and Zambia prepares to reopen its borders to international tourists, those in the tourism sector should remember that while domestic tourists may not bring in as much money as international tourists, the sustainability of the industry depends on purchases by Zambians. in the idea that they can take advantage of everything the country has to offer without breaking the bank.

In other words, international tourism is what has sustained the Zambian tourism sector so far, but domestic tourism is what will take it to the next level.