Along the sidelines of the 21st General Assembly of UN World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) being held in Medellin, Colombia, eTN Publisher Juergen T. Steinmetz had the opportunity to interview the Hon. Jean Kapata, MP, Zambia’s Minister of Tourism and Arts.
eTN: Honorable Minister, Zambia successfully co-hosted the 20TH session of the UNWTO General Assembly in August 2013 in Livingstone. What have been the ensuing benefits to the Zambian tourism industry?
HON. JEAN KAPATA: In the period prior and post to the UNWTO GA 2013, Zambia undertook massive infrastructure projects in Livingstone and the rest of the country. Key among them have been:
– Investment in ICT upgrades making Zambia move into the top rank in terms of Internet and telephone services.
– Linking Zambia and paving Zambia’s road via rehabilitation projects in which more than 8,000 kilometers of the country’s road networks are being upgraded to bituminous standard; to date more than 30% of the works have been accomplished.
– New modern airports are being constructed. The Harry Mwaanga Nkumbula International Airport in Livingstone has a new terminal building, and its runway was upgraded to handle bigger aircraft. This facility was completed and utilized during the UNWTO General Assembly. The Kenneth Kaunda and Simon Mwansa Kapwepwe International Airports in Lusaka and Ndola, respectively, are also being upgraded. A brand-new terminal building is expected in Lusaka in three years’ time.
Clearly, you can appreciate that the impact of the mentioned infrastructure projects have tremendously boosted Zambia’s attractiveness to tourists and investors in tourism alike. The new airports are attracting more airlines to fly to our destination. Access to key tourist sites by road and by air has improved tremendously.
eTN: Honorable Minister, what other achievements have been recorded?
HON. JEAN KAPATA: Significantly, Zambia has instituted substantial visa reforms to make it easier for tourists to come to our destination. These include the implementation of the KaZa Univisa system between Zambia and Zimbabwe, similar to the EU Schengen visa for all countries who are on our “visa on arrival” list for both countries which are 41 in total. This has already increased arrivals to the two countries. Since the UNWTO, we have been progressively increasing the number of countries on the “visa on arrival” list. Before the end of this year, Zambia will also launch the electronic visa processing system. This is expected to give tourist arrivals a further boost.
All in all, the exposure of Destination Zambia to the global tourism market through the hosting of the UNWTO General Assembly which has included media exposure and recommendations from participating delegates, stimulated faster growth in arrivals to Zambia. Apart from 2014 when the rate of increase in arrivals dropped to 3.5 per annum, Zambia’s annual increase in arrivals has been at more than 12%. In the case of MICE tourism, the rate of increase has been an impressive 400% per annum for the past 2 years.
eTN: Lastly, Honorable Minister, what are the next steps and what key policy changes has your government taken to improve tourism?
HON. JEAN KAPATA: The immediate next steps my government is taking is to encourage investments in hotels and attract new airlines. We are also determined to invest in new and larger convention centers to attract larger MICE events.
To this end, government and parliament have respectively adopted new policy and legislation on tourism and hospitality which will reposition the Zambian tourism industry domestically and internationally.