MINISTER of Tourism and Arts Rodney Sikumba says foreign tourists will get excited about coming to Zambia once the majority of the population gets vaccinated against COVID-19.

In an interview, Tuesday, Sikumba expressed worry at the low vaccination rate, saying there was no way the country could grow its tourism sector if people did not get vaccinated. 

“In the Presidential speech, he (President Hichilema) took special interest in the issues of COVID and the fourth wave. And I think from 2019, what the sector has been grappling with has been the same COVID.  How we have managed it, obviously the previous government didn’t really take it seriously to see how best they could manage COVID in the tourism sector. Now the fourth wave is looming but what we have control over as Zambians today is to ensure that we get vaccinated. The number of vaccinations of the eligible population in Zambia is worrisome. There is no way we are going to grow the sector if people don’t get vaccinated. It is very important for us to ensure that we get vaccinated,” he said. 

“Even if we are talking about the fourth wave, we are talking about the fourth wave that has to hit the country when the population is vaccinated, but if not then you would find most of us who are productive will end up being in quarantine. You the media are the ones who are supposed to help us to educate the masses. To tell them [that] you will not be dead if you get vaccinated. You are just shooting yourself against the deadly disease. So in the absence of you getting vaccinated, it will be very difficult for us to get as many international clients as we can. It will be very difficult for us to open up the sector 100 percent where people can now freely go to almost all our sites around the country, even restaurants and bars. So it is very important that we take heed.”

The tourism minister said foreign tourists would get more attracted to coming to Zambia once the country attained immunity against COVID-19.

“Our target through our Ministry of Health is 70 percent. That’s when we are going to attain immunity. When it gets to attaining immunity then you will find that even the rest of the world will now get attracted to coming to Zambia. People are just tired, people need to travel. At the end of the day, if they travel, they need to travel with a free mind. If you see what is happening in Europe today, in most of the stadiums you will find that everybody in the stadium is not wearing a mask and it’s full to capacity. They are free because they have attained immunity. So even the people who come here, it is out of desperation that I have to travel because maybe they have business interests or maybe they are just tired of being in their homes. The numbers themselves that we are receiving are not something to write home about, we can do better and doing better is where the country is ready to receive those foreign tourists,” said Sikumba. 

“The assistance for starters is the general population expectations, we are taking over an administration which for lack of a better term mismanaged a lot of things, and their focus was totally different. So this is the patience we request from them. However, all those pronouncements the President made in his inauguration speech in parliament; to ensure that we have as many arrivals coming in, to ensure that the cost of doing business is lowered, to ensure that the sector itself coordinates favorably amounts to GDP. So all we just need to request from our people is to watch this space and if they could bring up ideas of how best we could grow this sector, feel free my office is at Kwacha house, bring in your proposals then we will be able to drive this economy together.”