TOURISM and Arts Minister Ronald Chitotela has appealed to both local and foreign tourists to continue abiding by all Coronavirus protocols because the second wave has the potential of devastating the tourism sector and delaying its recovery.

In an interview, Chitotela cautioned that the resurgence of COVID-19 had potential to destroy the hard work and efforts various stakeholders had made in resuscitating the tourism sector after the virus initially emerged in Zambia in March, this year.

“I want to appeal to our tourists to observe the COVID-19 guidelines. As you may be aware, it is out of the hard work that Zambia was placed among the safest countries in the world after our collective efforts. We applied for the tourism health protocols that were approved by the Ministry of Health and the UNWTO together with the World Health Organisation. They did an assessment and placed Zambia among the safest countries to visit in the world. This was done with the view to resuscitate the tourism sector; the tourism sector was the sector that was the hardest hit in terms of the effects of COVID-19,” Chitotela said.

“My appeal to the traveling public, both local and international is, let’s adhere to the tourism safety protocols that we have placed for ourselves, including the tour operators so that we don’t lose the positive gains that we have registered in terms of the safety of our tourists, the tour operators and even our workers who are working in this tourism facilities. I would want to generally appeal to every Zambian not to drop the guard so that we don’t slide back to the situation in which we were; we saw a number of our people losing jobs on account of COVID-19, it disrupted the tourism value chain.”

He said the tourism incentives contained in next year’s budget would not be of any value if the country was to see a resurgence of COVID-19, which would negatively affect the sector.

“As you may be aware, we have given attractive incentives in the 2021 budget, it is not easy to suspend the tax for 12 months. We have also suspended the levy that the tour operators have been paying. As I said, the last time we had a meeting with them is that 2020 was a year of survival and we had hoped that in 2021, it is was going to be easy that is why those incentives, we forced them on the Minister of Finance (Dr Bwalya Ng’andu) and the Minister gave in. We were of the view that we resuscitate the tourism sector. This is the hope we have that 2021, we actually begin resuscitating so that we can begin to record positive gains,” said Chitolela.

“I just hope that our tour operators and the general public will not let loose so that even the opportunities that we have been given are not lost because if there are no tourists coming in, it may not be beneficial for all those incentives that have been provided for in the 2021 budget. Those incentives have provided for in terms of making sure that we stimulate growth in the tourism sector.”