Entry restrictions impede tourism growth

ENTRY requirements for tourists visiting Zambia must be revised to attract more foreigners to come into the country because they are bringing money into Government coffers, Livingstone Tourism Association board chairman Alexander Mutali has observed. Mr Mutali said tourists did not need a visa to enter the country because they were bringing money to Zambia. He said Zambia was one of the countries in Africa that had vast tourist attractions but that restrictions at entry points were disadvantaging tourists in that they spent more hours waiting to be cleared. “We need to be tactful when dealing with tourists because they are not interested in wasting time to be cleared when entering, but we should have a mechanism that will allow them entry in a quest to attract more of them to bring money in the country. ‘‘Look at our neighbouring Zimbabwe, despite the challenges that country is facing, but in terms of tourism they have now picked because they do not charge VAT as well as Kenya, and tourists are flocking to those countries like no man’s business and yet we have better things that could attract tourists,” he said. Mr Mutali said his organisation was now engaging the ministries of Tourism, Finance and Commerce to see how Government could work on modalities to attract tourists in the country, as the sector was capable of growing the economy faster. He said the Ministry of National Development Planning had a huge responsibility to harmonise all the ministries with conflicting interests and streamline certain issues that could work to the disadvantage of other ministries. “We are planning to produce a manifesto to sell to the Government to see how we can market our country to tourists in our quest to diversify the economy. “Government must facilitate to remove VAT on tourists to make it cheaper for them to come here so that we have more people coming in this country,” he said. Mr Mutali said there was need to aggressively market the country to tourists if the country was to benefit from its vast tourism potential. He appealed to the local people to also market tourist attractions by visiting those areas. “Zambia is leading in tourism but we are not tapping to get the best we deserve to whatever we have, people must come directly to Zambia, instead of losing money to other countries, and then leaving a little in Zambia,” he said.