ZTB records increase in tourist visits

THE Zambia Tourism Board (ZTB) has recorded a significant increase in the number of tourist visiting the country this year despite the continued depreciation of the local currency.

Speaking in an interview with the Lusaka Star, Zambia Tourism Board chief executive officer, Felix Chaila says the depreciation of the Kwacha has made Zambia an attractive destination for foreign tourists, thereby resulting in increased tourist visits. THE Zambia Tourism Board (ZTB) has recorded a significant increase in the number of tourist visiting the country this year despite the continued depreciation of the local currency.

Speaking in an interview with the Lusaka Star, ZTB chief executive officer, Felix Chaila said the depreciation of the Kwacha had made Zambia an attractive destination for foreign tourists, thereby resulting in increased tourist visits.

“With the fall in the value of the Zambian Kwacha, tourists have found it cheaper to visit Zambia because most tourist products are priced in the local currency which is now far much weaker than the US dollar,” he noted.

Mr. Chaila said the Board was yet to compile the actual figures of the tourist arrivals for the year 2015 noting that the increase had also been boosted by the E-visa electron introduction last month.

He added; “The removal of the Yellow Fever certificate demanded by the South African government has eased the movement of tourists into the region.”

Mr. Chela projected this year’s increase in tourist visits to be above three percent as opposed to last year.

And the ZTB Chief Executive Officer noted that despite Zambia becoming an attractive tourist destination, hotel owners and other key players in the tourism sector were finding it difficult to provide hospitality services attributing such to the increasing cost of doing business in the industry.

He has since called on government to put up measures that would enhance a stable exchange rate for people in the hospitality industry to enable them plan for the future.

"The hotel industry is hard, people with such businesses still have to import goods at a high cost, most of the items they use such as linen and beddings, some food types and cutlery among others are all imported, thus the cost of doing business keeps increasing in the view of the depreciating local currency," he said.

Mr Chaila further added that the hotel owners often found themselves under pressure to increase the salaries of their workers who were feeling the pinch of the economic hardships locally.

Meanwhile, Hotels and Catering Services Association of Zambia (CSAZ) president, Felix Mulenga urged players in the hospitality industry to implement cost cutting measures that will enable them stay in business despite the continued depreciation of the local currency.

“Hoteliers are being tempted to increase room rates due to the pressure to meet other operational costs such as salaries for workers, importation of capital products as well as provision of alternative sources of power for their operations, " Mr Mulenga said.

He noted that although Zambia had become a lucrative destination for foreign tourists, the number of local clients visiting hotels and lodges had drastically reduced.

Mr. Mulenga attributed the change to the prevailing economic hardships being faced in the country noting that this was making people cut off on luxurious expenses.

The Zambian Kwacha has over the past six months been depreciating against major convertible international currencies, affecting several economic sectors such as manufacturing, Cross border businesses and Mining among others.

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