WORLDLY WONDERS

Zambia 2015 | TOURISM | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to The Hon. Jean Kapata, Minister of Tourism & Arts, on the new government tourism agenda, the influx of international investment, and the potential of the new visa program.

The Hon. Jean Kapata
BIOGRAPHY
The Hon. Jean Kapata is a Registered Theater Nurse with a certification in Theater and Emergency Nursing, and a diploma in Nursing. Before becoming Minister of Tourism and Arts, Hon. Kapata was the Community, Mother, and Child Health Deputy Minister.

What are your key priorities for next year?

We have devised key strategies for the next five years to promote the growth of the tourism sector in Zambia. One component involves creating an environment conducive for investment in the tourism sector through policy review, where new tourism and hospitality acts will have been adopted and enacted by 2015. Work is also underway to review the national parks and policy and to facilitate the adoption of new instruments before the end of 2016. Secondly, new financing instruments are coming in that will increase funding for tourism research, development, infrastructure, capacity building, and marketing. Third, there is a new provision to empower the Zambian Tourism Agency to open up representative offices in key source markets, which is currently being done in Zambian missions abroad. Fourth, the Ministry is also initiating projects to promote investment in hotels. Responses have been positive so far from local investors and international brand hotels such as the Hilton and Best Western, and additional investments are under negotiation. We are also promoting the repositioning of the business tourism sector by promoting investment in convention sectors and introducing special-purpose vehicles to promote and market Zambia as a destination of choice for MICE tourism. Furthermore, work is underway to draft a national tourism master plan and lay the long-term foundations of the development of the tourism sector. Lastly, we are working to introduce an electronic visa system which will facilitate faster processing of visas for tourists. We hope to see this scheme in operation by 2016. Zambia and Zimbabwe have been piloting the KAZA Uni-visa project, currently under evaluation; the project phase will end in May 2015. Through this project, a tourist can purchase a visa on arrival for $50 for entry to both Zambia and Zimbabwe for up to 30 days.

What are the advantages of Zambia as a tourism destination?

Zambia has a number of advantages, including its friendly and welcoming people who make tourists feel at home. Zambia is a highly peaceful country with a stable economy. It is also home to the iconic Victoria Falls, one of the seven natural wonders of the world. We have untapped segments of cultural tourism, which is being refined as a tourist product. We also have a spectacular wildlife offering and pristine lands with almost 20 national parks, 36 game management areas, one bird sanctuary and numerous plants and animals, including endangered species only found in these areas.

What is your assessment of the contribution of tourism to the country's GDP?

The Ministry of Tourism is regarded as one of the ministries mandated to promote sustainable economic development and job creation. Therefore, the establishment of the Ministry and the broadening of its mandate to incorporate arts and culture is significant to ensure that the contribution to the sector widens equally. Currently, the tourism sector accounts for 3.1% of GDP, and last year accounted for about 2.7%. The increase came from a number of factors and incentives, including the promotion of community participation in the sector and enabling an environment for PPPs, as well as promoting direct investment in the sector. Zambia and Zimbabwe co-hosted the UN World Tourism Organization's assembly, which made our country recognized on the world tourism market. With its natural resources and endowments, Zambia is now on the map to rapidly developing tourism.

The KAZA Uni-visa between Zambia and Zimbabwe was recently launched. What other common projects are you working on to maximize the potential of the Kavango-Zambezi Transfrontier Conservation Area?

The Kavango-Zambezi Transfrontier Conservation Area, or KAZA, has several programs and projects involving conservation and marketing. Within the scope of KAZA, Zambia is in the process of establishing tourism development corridor projects, one spanning the Southern and Western provinces and the other spanning Northern, Luapula, and Muchinga provinces. Through these projects, which will have their own special-purpose vehicle, we will develop infrastructure and new tourism products and packages to increase the length of stay and purchases by tourists.