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Thursday, 13 March 2008

A SADC Schengen?

Interesting comments from Tourism Deputy Minister Todd Chilembo that the SADC region will soon introduce a single visa that will allow foreigners access to all 14-member countries for tourism purposes.

Full article from the Post below:

SADC to introduce single visa for tourists, says Chilembo
By Kabanda Chulu
Wednesday March 12, 2008

Tourism Deputy Minister Todd Chilembo has said the SADC region will soon introduce a single visa that will allow foreigners access to all 14-member countries for tourism purposes.

Addressing the International Tourism Bourse (ITB) held in Germany over the weekend, Chilembo stated that the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) through the Regional Tourism Organisation for Southern Africa was promoting the concept of the Univisa.

“This concept will be a visa for foreigners in the line of the Shangen Visa (being undertaken in Europe), but will allow foreigners to access all 14 SADC member countries for tourism purposes,” he stated.

Chilembo also clarified the Zambian government’s withdrawal of tourist visa waivers because there was need to streamline the administration of visas as well as to adhere to the principle of reciprocity.

Chilembo stated that government had enacted the Tourism and Hospitality Act and the Zambia Tourism Board Act to support tourism development based on the principles of a free market economy.

He stated that the government had also introduced fiscal incentives that would be applicable to investors investing not less that US$500,000 in a priority sector such as tourism.

“Other incentives will include company tax to be charged at 50 per cent of the profits earned for a period of five years starting with the first year of profitability and dividends shall be exempted from tax for five years from the year of first declaration and the investors’ equipment and machinery will be customs duty zero rated for five years,” Chilembo stated.

Last year, Zambia recorded an increase in direct tourist receipts from US$177 million in 2006 and US$188 million in 2007. The tourism sector also had steady growth in tourist arrivals from 690,000 in 2006 to 730,000 in 2007. Of this figure Europe contributed 189,800 while Germany’s share was 7,000.

The Univisa proposal should make the SADC region more attractive to tourists , relative to other regions, as it expands the choice available to them. The extent of these benefits will depend on the extent to which air travel in SADC can be further liberalised to allow tourists to move much more easily across countries. SADC appear alert to this issue as well. Will Zambia benefit? That would depend on a number of things, including the price of the Univisa relative to the Budget 2008 Visa Changes. If the Univisa comes out cheaper than the latest changes, that would be good news. But the critical issue in the long term is whether Zambia can significantly improve its hotel and airport infrastructure to compete with other SADC nations. The Univisa as well as making SADC more attractive, will in the long term intensify competition among SADC states. Is Zambia ready?

9 comments:

  1. Isn't it interesting that Schengen doesn't have anything to do with tourism ?

    The Univisa proposal should make the SADC region more attractive to tourists , relative to other regions, as it expands the choice available to them.

    Really ? Will tourists really want to visit Kruger Park and Serengeti and Victoria Falls in the same trip ? Somehow I doubt it.

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  2. In so far as the Schengen results in free movement of people across borders, you could argue that it reduces the costs of visiting Europe.

    Of course the Schengen is about broader goals, but one cannot deny it improves choices to travellers to Europe.

    "Really ? Will tourists really want to visit Kruger Park and Serengeti and Victoria Falls in the same trip ? Somehow I doubt it"

    "Should" was the operative word, as that is clerly conditional on there being infrastructure to enable one to visit Kruger Park AND victoria falls. I noted that the open skies agreement could be critical in enabling cheaper air travel. In general liberalisation of air travel and greater infrastructure investment in hotels and so forth should be the goal.

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  3. hmmm.. yeah. But isn't it interesting that it is all they learned from Schengen ?

    And as far as this having an impact on tourism, i still don't buy it. I mean who would visit Kruger AND Victoria Falls ? Or rather how many people ? Just like I doubt many people visit Barcelona and Berlin in the same trip no matter how cheap and hassle-free it is.

    Yes enabling cheaper travel would help but a common tourist visa is at best a symbolic measure designed by busybodies.

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  4. I think the problem why our tourism, if we can call it that, has failed to tick is the way it is marketed. Schengen or no Schengen-type visa, as long as fundamental issues are not addressed, we will still be at the tail end of the league in terms of visitors. Please read my earlier blog on the same.

    http://gndhlovu.blogspot.com/2007/11/wrong-tourism-menu.html

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  5. "Just like I doubt many people visit Barcelona and Berlin in the same trip no matter how cheap and hassle-free it is."

    American students doing a year out in the UK easily do that....a special bunch, I agree, but it demostrates that packaged holiday tours can easily achieve that feat.

    But we are in agreement that liberalisation in air travel and better infrastructure is the only way to achieve more tourists.

    But I am intrigued...are you suggesting that the univisa has no advantages for the SADC nation?

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  6. Gersh,

    A very interesting piece.

    The level of marketing is poor, but so is the state of our embassies that advertise the material.

    Having said that, we must note that tourism numbers are going up year on year. The real question is whether these are rising fast enough and whether more can be done?

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  7. Yeah, I actually know a few american students who did the once-in-a-lifetime "tour of europe" thing. But it is a special bunch. I wonder if the RailEurope Europass was created to catter to that market or if that market got bigger because of it.

    That said, to answer you question: I think that the SADC tourist univisa won't have much effect. And that it would be better if they concentrated on solutions that would really increase the tourist flow like cheaper air travel or simplified visa procedures..

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  8. "Will tourists really want to visit Kruger Park and Serengeti and Victoria Falls in the same trip ? Somehow I doubt it."

    Yes they do! at least that was the case when I was last in Zambia. I used to see young tourists packed in those rugged military like 4x4 trucks driving around the country, mainly from South Africa and some from Europe! There were loads of such sightings in Zambia; I actually toyed with the idea myself but didn't get to it. There was even a campers' site somewhere in Rhodes Park (Lusaka) for such tourists.

    And as for Barcelona and Berlin in the same trip, again this is happening, as Cho said. My (foreign) workmates recently did a France-Italy-Switzerland trip, and not long ago I was invited by some fellow Zambians in the UK to do a similar thing though it never materialised.

    Anyway, the point I want to make is that I think the univisa (whatever the name) is a good thing in as far as enhancing tourism and maximising the gains from it.

    If tour operators sell packaged holidays which take tourists thru' several countries (with specific points of interest), I think that would be a good strategy.

    Cynicism usually comes to mind whenever a Zambian politician talks policy, (undoubtedly because they're not usually known for consulting matters), but this is a good thing as evidently other SADC members have had their thought-out input into it.

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  9. As someone from Britain who loves travelling and feels a great desire to visit Africa i can wholeheartedly say that nothing would give me greater pleasure than to come and travel round southern Africa and there are many others that would love to do so also in Britain, Europe, and the United states. Backpacking around other parts of the world is one of the greatest things you can do in life and that is a sentiment shared by millions of young people in Europe and America and indeed all over the world, any steps made to increase the ease of travel around southern Africa will only have benefits for people on both ides of the equation.

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