Zambia has approved its Tourism Master Plan 2018 to 2038, a 20-year practical development strategy to enhance the economic contribution of the tourism sector to the southern African nation's economy.
Currently the fastest-growing economic sector in the country – contributing US$1,8bn last year – travel and tourism is a national priority for growth, says Betty Mumba Chabala, Communications and Corporate Affairs Manager for the Zambia Tourism Agency.
The vision is for Zambia to rank among the most-visited holiday destinations in Africa.
“The outlook for Zambian tourism is very positive, having hit the one-million mark in tourist arrivals in 2017,” she says. “The 2018 statistics opened with renewed energy with higher than projected international arrivals. International tourists grew by 7%.”
Chabala says the government is working hard toward providing an investor-friendly environment and improving accessibility to the country. This has included the re-introduction of a national carrier and visa reforms.
According to Nick Aslin, Founder and Director of Zambian Ground Handlers, massive investment in the international airports in Zambia can already be seen with a brand-new airport building in Livingstone and a new airport in Lusaka due to open at the end of the year.
“The tourism product is a lot more sophisticated and professional in terms of quality of service and product and this, in turn, has opened it up to a greater variety of travellers,” he says.
John Coppinger, owner of Remote Africa Safaris, says Zambia remains a lesser known safari destination. This is probably the country’s biggest challenge but also one of the greatest assets as it can offer intimate and exclusive experiences.
With new areas opening up like North Luangwa, Kafue, and new air access to the Bangweulu Swamps with RASair, there is a general feeling of positivity.
“In Zambia one does not find all the big names managing properties like many other African destinations. This does make marketing the country more difficult, but at the same time the experiences are authentic and unique because many of the establishments are personally managed,” says Suzanne Bayly-Coupe, owner of Classic Portfolio.
According to Pieter van der Schee, Global Director Sales & Marketing at Sanctuary Retreats, the market is slowly growing in terms of infrastructure. Having recently invested heavily in its lodge in the country he says this was done on the back of the growth estimates for tourism.
Andy Hogg, owner of Bushcamp Company, says it is planning a major refurbishment and upgrade in 2020 at two of its properties, while African Retreat has opened a new lodge along the Batoka Gorge.
“Tour operators are working together to promote Zambia as a destination. There is a lot of confidence for the country,” says Van der Schee.
Another exciting development has been the launch of scheduled charter flights to connect passengers to Royal Airstrip and the Lower Zambezi National Park in Zambia by Royal Air Charters. This together with Proflight's direct flights between Lusaka, Lower Zambezi, Luangwa and Livingstone (June-Oct) makes getting around Zambia’s key safari areas that much easier.
Mindy Roberts, Director of Time + Tide, says Zambia has such huge variety already, it’s not always about what is new. “As the home of walking safaris, as one of the best places to see leopard, with some of the highest guiding standards across Africa and the second biggest wildebeest migration as well as the largest mammalian migration (the bats in Kasanka), Zambia has so much to offer.”
And that, she says, is without even mentioning the Victoria Falls.