Zim crisis spurs Zambian tourism

THE number of tourists visiting Zambia has quadrupled since foreigners began to shun neighbouring Zimbabwe four years ago, boosting revenues from the sector to US$153 million last year, officials said on Tuesday.


“There is a tour

ism boom in Zambia, which is partly because of the problems Zimbabwe is facing with the international community,” a senior Treasury official told Reuter at an African tourism conference in Lusaka.


“Tourists (prefer) to visit Zambia compared to Zimbabwe now,” he added.


Zambian Tourism minister Patrick Kalifungwa told the conference that tourism was one of the southern African nation’s three top growth sectors.


Zimbabwe used to be one of the region’s main tourist destinations, but its hotels and game reserves are now struggling to attract foreigners from outside the continent.


The former British colony launched a controversial land reform programme in 2000, seizing white-owned commercial farms for redistribution to landless blacks.


That helped spark its worst political and economic crisis since Independence in 1980, as agricultural output contracted sharply and western donors halted credit lines.


Kalifungwa said Zambia had embarked on a vigorous marketing campaign to attract tourists and hoped to receive one million visitors a year by 2010.


A total of 610 109 tourists visited Zambia last year compared with 577 526 in 2003, he said. This compares with about 160 000 tourists four years ago, according to government data.


“The country recorded tourism receipts of $152,8 million in 2004 compared with $148,8 million in 2003 and we see our tourism industry growing further,” Kalifungwa said.


Zambia’s economy is expected to grow by 6% this year, compared with 4,6% in 2004, spurred also by expansion in agriculture and mining.


Good rains, farm reforms and the arrival of white commercial farmers who fled Zimbabwe have helped Zambian agriculture and the country is keen to cash in on its potential for offering safari holidays for foreign tourists.


Official estimates are not available, but based on Zambia’s gross domestic product data, tourism now accounts for nearly four percent of the economy.


Most of Zambia’s roughly 10 million people still live in abject poverty and like most of southern Africa, the country is in the throes of a raging HIV/Aids pandemic that is killing off much of its workforce.


One of the main tourist attractions in Zambia — also accessible from Zimbabwe — are the Victoria Falls, listed by the U.N agency Unesco as one of the world’s seven wonders.


Thousands of tourists also visit Livingstone town, 500 km south of Lusaka, to see the spot which Scottish explorer David Livingstone visited nearly 150 years ago.— Reuter.