The tourism sector with its feature activities continues to play a key role in the economic growth of Zambia with its key contribution to employment creation, source of foreign exchange, and its contribution to the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP). In 2019, the industry contributed nearly 7% of the GDP and 7.2% of the country’s total employment. During the same period, international visitors spent about $849 million, representing 10% of the country’s total exports. The COVID-19 pandemic has had a negative impact on the tourism sector as measures introduced to contain the virus led to near-complete cessation of tourism activities around the world. The tourism sector in Zambia has experienced significant growth in recent years but the pandemic has negatively affected its growth. Without closing its borders, the number of international visitors declined sharply for Zambia. During the first half of 2020, the country received only 290,244 international tourists compared to 634,757 during the same period in 2019, representing a 56.3 percent reduction.
Zambia’s safari tourism and allied sectors such as Airlines and charters are projected to have suffered a loss in income of about USD100 million in 2020. The Government is cognizant of the challenges faced by the sector and has therefore included tourism as one of the sectors for restoring growth and economic diversification in the Economic Recovery Plan (ERP) for the period 2020-2023. During the ERP, Government intends to provide tax incentives and other relief in the 2021 national budget in order to sustain the sector; actualize the implementation of the Tourism Master Plan; Reinvigorate the Livingstone/Northern Circuit; Youth Empowerment Scheme for Artists and support local tourism.
In addition to the priorities in the ERP Government is urged to ensure to restore traveller confidence through adaptation to evolving COVID-19 response measures and utilizing the expanded use of ICTs to publish health and travel related information that can easily be accessed by travellers.
Lastly, the global lockdowns have brought some variable lessons back home on the importance of promoting local tourism, this, therefore, calls for Government through the Zambia Tourism Agency (ZTA) and the tourism businesses in Zambia to continue the promoting of local tourism through suitable packages that will encourage and motivate local citizens to harness the tourism sector.