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Tuesday, 29 October 2013

A broken tourism policy, 2nd Edition

Government has started opening offices for tourism promotion abroad. Tourism PS George Zulu says the countries were offices are being set up include South Africa, France, Spain, Britain and USA. In his words : “There’s great potential in the tourism industry to boost the Zambian economy more than in other sectors because the hospitality of the nation draws tourists into the country".

I was under the impression that our many costly embassies around the world are already geared towards this sort of promotion. What are they doing in the embassies if they are not already promoting Zambia?

My free advice to Zulu and others is to ask the diaspora to help market Zambia instead of such expensive ventures. Its quite obvious that if they want to sell Zambia abroad, their best ambassadors are the diaspora. They understand what Zambia has to offer and what the foreigner wants. Incidentally, I have always found that there's something to say for "person-to-person" recommendation. More importantly, it will save taxpayers a lot of money.

In general a stronger diaspora policy can help Zambia's tourism policy on the demand side directly. For example one suspects that tourism arrivals would go up if Zambia had dual citizenship because there would be increased frequency of returnees due to elimination of visas for second and third generation Zambians abroad who may now start to hold Zambian passports.

Of course the benefits of a strong diaspora policy go beyond tourism. The benefits of increased investment, voluntary services, foreign education and civil society are well rehearsed in academic literature. But the lack of one has certainly impeded this sector. One wonders what Zulu and others are doing if they can’t even think through basic issues like this.

Chola Mukanga | Economist
Copyright © Zambian Economist 2013

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