Government has observed that the tourism industry has failed to reach the anticipated target of 1,000 tourist arrivals per year for the last five years and that it has continued recording lower levels of international arrivals.
The Ministries of Finance, Tourism and Arts, Commerce Trade and Industry said this at a consultative meeting held with stakeholders aimed at finding solutions for revamping the hospitality industry in the country.
Minister of Finance Felix Mutati observed during the meeting that government had always sat to discuss problems and how best they could be dealt with but that nothing was being done to find solutions.
“I was looking at the statistics of tourist arrivals and I discovered that over the last five years, we have never really breached the 1000 mark. there are always incrementally another 20 thousand but we just somewhere in the 900 space. And in terms of contribution of tourism to GDP still remains around 2 per cent. we can do more, so let’s share the ideas and Ministries and as stakeholder,” Mutati said.
“As government we have decided to set up a small task force that will look into high level distance on some of these issues that we have discussed and the key issues that we have discussed that are constraining tourism and then by the end of the month this small team should meet with the government to make decisions because we are over investing in conversations. We need to look at how we can deal with the whole issue of airlines for it is only after we have a productive conversation that we can combat this or otherwise there is nothing we are going to solve by sitting here.”
He added that pronouncements of the tourism industry being a priority sector in the country would only be meaningful if there was a governance policy and legislation attached.
“And the issue of travel agencies is an important one which we need to address, so if we can pick up three or four issues that we can achieve by the end of this year and others be included in the 2018 budget, we will then render meaning to tourism as a priority sector because we have only pronounced tourism as a priority sector but there is no government policy and legislation that supports that tourism is actually a priority sector, so we have all been jointly waffling around this particular issue and that’s where we are. The three Ministries are determined to make a change even if it means government losing some money, so be it but if we can grow jobs and reduce poverty as a consequences, it’s okay,” said Mutati.
And Tourism Minister Charles Banda said tourism was a resource that could not be downplayed.
“I and my colleague Ministers have received a number of concerns from the tourism private sector concerning the development of our country as a sustainable tourism destination. As you may be aware, the national tourism policy which I launched a few weeks ago at this venue, it is clear that we want a government-led and private sector-driven tourism development agenda. The policy focus brings on board the emphasis of community participation and access to tourism benefits. I have interacted with tourism groups before including the UNWTO a number of times and I am well informed that tourism is considered everywhere as a means for not only poverty reduction but also foreign exchange earnings, economic diversification, job creation and so on. Therefore as can be seen, tourism is a resource that can not be downplayed,” said Banda.
Meanwhile, tourism agencies condemned governments intention to introduce a national airline saying countries all over the world that have tried doing so in the past had terribly failed.
Protea Hotels proprietor Mark O’donel advised government to simply work with the already existing Airlines in the country like Proflight Zambia.
O’donel also condemned government for putting up too many policies and restrictions for people doing business in the country. He said Zambia would continue recording low tourist arrivals as long as government continued with its restrictive bureaucracy.
“It is unreasonable for government to put in place too many regulations for people wishing to venture into the tourism sector. these are the things that are making this country expensive for people to get to and it shall continue recording low tourist arrivals as long as government doesn’t want to do away with some of its policies and bureaucracy,” said