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Wednesday, 21 January 2009

Quick Links

Global Risks 2009 : The World Economic Forum annual look at the risks, economic and other, that could emerge as the financial crisis continues to unfold. The report considers the implication of a sudden drop in China's growth to 6% or below; deteriorating fiscal positions; and further asset price falls. I particularly like the fancy cobweb charts !

Jestina Mukoko: 'Mugabe's henchmen came for me before dawn' : The Independent on the terrifying odeal of the Jestina Mukoko's. Murray Sanderson had brought her abduction to our attention, way before the story hit the main international headlines.

The State of the World's Children 2009 : UNICEF's annual report on world's children was released last week focusing on maternal and new born health.

Beauty and the beasts in Zambia : The Telegraph showcases Zambia's new safaris that are driving tourists wild. Its a fantastic promotion, with links to the appropriate websites. I shall certainly book my trip back home shortly!!


  1. Cho,

    The review of safari resorts is great publicity indeed! Just the sort of coverage the high end of the industry needs. The author cites very few downsides, such as the need for air travel, seasonal weather variations, and biting insects which also act as potential disease vectors. Air travel is being widely discussed elsewhere on the blog, and there is nothing I can do about the weather, but insects are often simple creatures susceptible to simple foibles.

    Where biting flies and/or sleeping sickness are an issue, has great low cost DIY trap designs and helpful online slideshows. While of obvious health benefit to all and economic importance to livestock owners (esp. cattle), the effects on tourism should probably not be underestimated. Although the gamma radiation induced sterile insect technique being tested in Zanzibar is probably the route to long term solution, in the meantime traps are cheap and effective at controlling insect populations (and unlike insecticides they do not lose effectiveness over multiple generations).

    Tsetse flies like dark blue things, and the smell of cow urine. While evolution has equipped them well enough to last an estimated 34 million years against predators and disease, apparently the ability to navigate their way out of a pair of used plastic bottles never came up. The current record daily catch for the Nzi trap is over 5,000 flies (in Kenya). Once trapped, the flies rapidly die of heat exhaustion and dehydration, just replace collection bags when they get full. Dead flies make good bird or fish food, or use as a fertilizer additive. Not bad return on an investment of a few square meters of sewn cloth and netting, some wire and string, a pair of used 1.5 liter clear plastic bottles and clear plastic bags. The only bit that needs replacing is the cow urine (other things work too, just not as conveniently).

  2. Cho,
    Nice to see the tourism piece. But are those figures really what they are, circa £500pp per night?? Gosh! That's an entire family holiday in say the Canary Islands for a week! from UK, that is. In these hard times, I think the advert in the UK newspaper was misplaced.

    Incidentally, I found some wonderful professional brochures on Zambian tourism recently at the High Commission in London, very impressive quality. Speaking of economic diversification, it's really about time. Those brochures should be in the travel shops, though.

  3. Yakima, Zedian

    After some thought I was beginning to wonder whether the current model of tourism in Zambia is either perversely broken or simply a feature of the fundamentals.

    Yakima is certainly correct that this high end business model is where the profit is especially in an environment of sluggish global demand for tourism. For any tourism entreprenuer this appears the best way to compete and curve out a sustainable niche.

    But I am also with Zedian that these are indeed expensive holidays, and while they may be good for individuals businesses they don't generate massive second round impacts on the economy because, well, the product is so high end that all of the revenue goes to the safari owner who banks in the UK.

    But low cost tourism is not necessary guaranteed to succeed either, though if it did it would be more beneficial. The problem with low cost is that alternatives are plenty e.g. Botswana, Namibia, Moza.

    For this reason this is why I advocate an infrastructure led approach which leaves individual players to determine optimal supply of whatever shape. Government should not in my view engage in expensive promotion of specific products.

    I would welcome some rescue from the extreme position I have found myself!

  4. The problem with low cost is that alternatives are plenty e.g. Botswana, Namibia, Moza.

    I had an extensive debate with some mates regarding this and we did recognise that while there appears to be a niche market, which is keeping the tour operators going at those prices, the competition from Kenya, SA and the rest of the region is so strong that you have to have something very unique and special to be successful.

    Certainly Kenya and SA have gone mass market and clearly it's working for them. The sheer number of tour operators there has created competition amongst them and brought down prices.

    In contrast the Zambian operators seem to be targeting the upper market, and there's nothing wrong with that if that's what they want. They just need to convince that market they have that something more special to offer, and put effort in capturing and retaining that market, while govt should find a way of taxing it more effectively. I'm not convinced advertising in the Telegraph is showing that effort, unless there're some background efforts I'm not aware of.

  5. Zedian,

    The Kenyan mass tourism has been infrastructure led...and that has found a new low cost equilibrium.

    My view is that the reason why we have "high end" tourism is because we cannot compete on low end. Thats what I was hinting it at when I said the "fundamentals". The trouble with high end is that it does not stimulate the wider economy enough.

  6. Cho,

    I have tried to engage my "optimism receptors" at maximum (not an easy feat in the present environment!), and I think that I can see some glimmer of light at the end of the tourism tunnel. I tend to agree with Zedian and Friends that to truly secure a high end niche market, Zambia will have to present unique and special experiences to consumers.

    I have been reviewing the wealth of information on the state of Zambia's wildlife presented by I.P.A. Manning over recent years (that man is a national treasure), because, BIG IF, the nation can do a superior job of protecting and rehabilitating wildlife populations, then, and likely ONLY then, will she be able to secure a long term niche as a high end tourist destination. Recent performance in this regard has been sadly lacking.

    Unfortunately, this is another area of the economy where recent shifts in diplomatic emphasis towards China has unintended consequences. Because Chinese consumers represent the single largest market for animal poaching operations (also illegal timber sales), closer economic ties which produce larger volumes of legitimate shipping between the two countries inevitably increase the ability of poaching networks to successfully avoid enforcement and enlist local suppliers and cover operations. Therefore continued cooperation with the Chinese government on investment in other areas of the economy such as mining and manufacturing really should be predicated on improved efforts at enforcement and especially on sincere efforts to reduce demand among high end Chinese consumers.

    Sorry, the optimism still isn't showing, I'll try harder! One way to attract the attention of tourists is to have the biggest something, another way is to have the most pristine something. When these two aspects can be combined in a single item, the benefits are multiplied. For example, the city where I live has the highest percentage of designated greenspace within the continental US. This inevitably gives us a boost every year when being rated for liveability indexes by various national publications, (and there are many who also feel that it has an indirect effect on other measures such as "road rage" incidents, where we rank among the lowest). It isn't fair, but the number one rating in any given category is disproportionately more effective at increasing overall evaluation than lesser (but still high end) ratings. Something about the reaction of the human psyche to the concept of alphas within society is responsible I suppose.

    Anyhow, my point is that Zambian tourism is badly in need of pristine biggest somethings, which government likely has a vital role in creating, preserving, and calling attention to. Victoria Falls is great, but Livingstone doesn't have the best views, and so is fairly well doomed to be junior partner to Zimbabwe for falls-related tourists. One way to counter that is to bundle the Zambian Vic Falls experience with other waterfalls, something akin to the Irish Ring of Kerry success, only with greater transport distances which require aiming at high end consumers (i.e. small planes and private taxis rather than buses). Zambia could, with some effort, likely secure a place as the nation with the most protected waterfalls in Africa.

    I love hippos, but let's face it, they are not the most entertaining animal in the world to watch. Being the hippo capital of the world is a tough sell. Based on the stellar work of the people at Chimfunshi over the last 25 years, a concerted effort to reproduce their success around the country could easily make Zambia the chimpanzee refuge capital of the world. If every tourist destination in the nation can offer up the added incentive of a nearby opportunity to experience and contribute to chimp conservation, I think that it would have a profound impact on the ability of the nation to attract tourists especially at the high end and with hands-on ecotourists (who will be especially eager to see the benefits derived from chimp-tourism distributed at the local level to promote sustainability). Western tourists especially are wont to describe visits to such refuges as "life changing" experiences, which is the type of word of mouth advertising you just can't buy.

    Another area which could be exploited is river based tourism, however that is running headlong into the perception that macro-hydro is the answer to the country's long term energy predicament. I am currently convinced that the Austrian gravitational whirlpool innovations point the way forward, with salutary effects on siltation and fisheries management. Due to their lower requirements for elevation drop to generate pressure (volume of flow is more of a limiting factor with whirlpool designs), such installations can be positioned below existing waterfalls or stretches of whitewater with equal or greater effectiveness to placing them above such features. Whitewater rafting, kayaking, and canoeing are areas where Zambia has potential to achieve best or most ratings. Where navigable, rivers and lakes can be utilized for cruise tourism on floating hotels which transport consumers from site to site while they sleep, eat, and lounge. That of course necessitates having multiple water accessible sites worth visiting and/or attractive scenery to watch in the meantime.

    A big way to combat the concentration of revenue from high end tourists is to move them around while they are in the country. Even if they buy in to an "all inclusive" deal with a UK based operator, if they expect to visit multiple sites during their stay, then the operator will have to enter into agreements with more local businesses than they would if they could contain tourists within their own facility. Smack! Right into the gigantic domestic transport infrastructure gap again! Still, there may be ways to generate positive synergies driven by consumer expectations. For example, a big reason why the domestic airline business has trouble expanding is reliable domestic passenger volumes to overcome fuel price disadvantages on internationally competitive routes. If however the average high end tourist coming in to the country expected to take say four domestic flights over the course of their week or two in the country, then it might be possible to offer tour operators a great deal more flexibility in all inclusive pricing by creating some kind of standard air pass which would enable passage on any four domestic flights by any carrier within a given time frame (and subject to availability of course). I leave the specific configuration of such a plan to those such as Cho who know the industry far better than I.

  7. Tsetse fly trap:


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