TRAVEL SHOW

Zambia 2017 | TOURISM | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Felix Chaila, CEO of the Zambia Tourism Agency (ZTA), on the potential for the sector to boost the economy.

Felix Chaila
BIOGRAPHY
Felix Chaila has more than 20 years' experience at the senior executive and chief executive levels in various fields, such as marketing, telecommunications, milling, and rubber processing. He was appointed managing director for the Zambia Tourism Board (ZTB) in 2011, and later, in 2016, CEO of the restructured ZTA, which replaced ZTB. Among his key achievements are the opening up of new tourist source markets in India and Europe; the creation of the Livingstone International Cultural and Arts Festival (LICAF); and the creation of the Zambia Travel Expo (ZATEX). Chaila holds a BA in economics from the University of Zambia and a postgraduate diploma in international business from International Management Institute (IMI)-India in collaboration with IMI Geneva and McGill University–Canada.

How can tourism boost Zambia's economy?

Tourism is one of the key drivers of the global economy and has shown itself to be resistant to global shocks. Zambia is dependent on commodity exports, and, therefore, revenue generated through tourism can be used to insulate the economy when prices of these exports are down. Tourism is also one of the fastest generators of employment, and people working in tourist hotspots see the money being made in their area going back into their local community. Thus, tourism can help more vulnerable, rural populations. Relative to other sectors, it also has a short period of return on investment, and also creates a value chain that impacts food suppliers, transport companies, entertainment companies, and so on. Finally, tourism, in its essence, goes hand-in-hand with sustainability, concern for the environment, and best practices. We are lucky enough in Zambia to be blessed with tourism resources, such as the mighty Victoria Falls and abundant wildlife and 20 national parks. Zambia also ranks among the safest destinations here in Africa, with no incidences of terrorism and low rates of disease and crime. Zambians have been voted the friendliest and most welcoming people on continental Africa. Because of this, tourism in Zambia has been growing and contributing more to our GDP.

How important are global forums and engagement with the private sector to market tourism opportunities in Zambia?

We attend all the key events, and for the past four to five years we have been growing our presence at the key global tourism fairs together with the private sector. We always have a booth at the World Travel Market Africa in South Africa, and also participate in Indaba, the largest African tourism fair, and ITB Berlin, the world's largest trade and travel show. We have a strong presence at road shows in the UK and Europe, and also open up to new emerging markets such as India. Over time, the private sector has grown in its confidence of ZTA's marketing programs. However, it is important to stress that we are advancing in marketing to the middle level as business-to-business campaigns, but are not doing enough to boost our consumer level visibility. This is where the importance of a dedicated tourism budget comes in. We are liaising with the government to revise these figures, as it is vital that we channel more public funds into boosting the sector. We are lucky in that the Victoria Falls destination speaks for itself, and we are often able to leverage on tourism marketing efforts from neighboring markets such as South Africa and Botswana. Many tourists travelling to these regions will make a pit stop in Zambia to see the falls. While this allows us to benefit, it is not enough to be viewed as an addition, and we want to attract these tourists in our own right. We are optimistic, though, that with the tourism levy being introduced, we hope to increase funding that is pumped into the sector.

How do you plan to boost the potential of adventure tourism?

The first thing is to highlight adventure tourism as one of our specialized niches. It is important not to be too generic in the way we package our tourism offerings. On the one hand, there is leisure tourism, which attracts one market and deserves a dedicated marketing strategy; on the other, there is adventure tourism, which is its own entity. We want to promote Livingstone as the adventure capital of southern Africa. Aside from this, there is also potential in the northern territory, with activities than can be set up around the Kalambo Falls, the second-highest waterfalls in the world. In addition to the adventure sub-segment, we also want to boost business and conference tourism, and believe the development of a conference center at Livingstone will have a positive impact on this.