Threatened State of Emergency poses a danger to Tourism

Threatened State of Emergency poses a danger to Tourism

Kingsley Lilamono

A veteran Tour Operator has disclosed that the recently declared threatened public state of emergency has posed a serious threat to the tourism sector.

In an open letter availed to Zambian Eye to President Edgar Lungu, Kingsley Lilamono who is also former Chairman for Livingstone Tourism Association says the development has adversely affected tourism.

Below is the letter:

President Lungu inspecting a guard of honour during his inauguration. Photo: Jean Mandela

To His Excellency, The President of the Republic of Zambia, Mr Edgar Chagwa Lungu.

I write this open letter to you as an ordinary citizen of this lovely country, Zambia. Having served as Livingstone Tourism Association chairman through the Mwanawasa, Banda and Sata’s governments, I have better understanding of the private sector’s role in enhancing the growth of the tourism industry in Zambia.

I am making this contribution as an ordinary citizen, having seen the trend in the development of state of affairs of our country. It is not fair to me to keep quiet at the expense of the looming suffering of the people due to pending job losses.

For lack of better forum to communicate to you sir, I have chosen to use the social media as I believe the chances of my letter being handed over to you are very unlikely.

Sir, I have observed with much pain and concern on the events in our country especially after the August 11 elections. It pains me, like many other Zambians to see how our country’s rule of law is deteriorating.

Sir, I am an operator in the tourism industry. I am passionate about tourism as Zambia is endowed with a spectrum of natural resources which we have to exploit and develop our economy. For this to materialize we need consented commitment by all stakeholders. National economic growth cannot happen by itself, deliberate measures to grow the economy have to be put in place by the leadership. In addition, efforts must be made by everyone to ensure that the measures put in place achieve the intended results.

The tourism industry is a very young industry in Zambia where major investments have only been made in the past fifteen years. The Zambian tourism industry still struggles to become competitive in the region as it has to compete with neighbouring countries that have had mature tourism industries over a period of several decades. For your information sir, this industry is unpredictable and very sensitive.

Livingstone tourism alone already generates one-third of the tourism revenue in Zambia, so the development of the tourism industry in Livingstone (with the Victoria Falls as the flagship) has a big impact on the general Zambian tourism industry and the Zambian economy. If properly harnessed, tourism can tremendously enhance our GDP. This has happened in other countries like Mauritius and the Seychelles. The growth of the sector can mean more jobs for the people and more revenue for the government.

It has taken us about 20 years to be where we are now. As of last year, we had closer to one million tourist arrivals in the country. This achievement is as a result of many years of marketing by both the government (mainly through the Zambia Tourism Agency) and the private sector. It has also been as a result of good governance and publicity of our country. It should also be encouraging to note that between 2015 and 2016 the international tourist arrivals to Livingstone (the hub of Zambia’s tourism) increased by 74%! This is all-time phenomenal leap!

We have worked very hard to increase the number of tourism arrivals in the country. This is good for creating jobs and revenue to the country. There are many tourism destinations in the world. So the tourists have many options to choose from. Our major attraction for the tourists is the peace, stability and the rule of law we have enjoyed. The tourists cannot go to unstable destinations where they may feel threatened. It takes a lot of consistent marketing, political stability and persuasion to grow tourism.

Sir, since the Threatened State of Emergency, we have seen with dismay trucks filled with armed police and trucks filled with armed soldiers driving around our peaceful Livingstone city, apparently patrolling. Tourism and guns cannot go together. This just sends away the tourists.

Having said all this, Your Excellency, our political status quo if not quickly corrected will result in a slump in our tourism industry. Apparently tourism is mostly a leisure industry. The declaration of the Threatened State of Emergency will result in the following:

a) Restrictions in the movement of tourists in the country

b) The fear by tourists being attacked or arrested during the period

c) Cancellation of bookings already made

d) Reduced number of tourists coming to Zambia.

All the above do not support the growth of the industry.

Sir, we have an opportunity to change the negative perception created internationally about our country. We must move together. To do this our leaders must be exemplary. They need to observe the rule of law to govern fairly. So far this is not the case. Criminal elements have been embraced in governance. These same elements are manipulating the affairs of our country. Violence has become a norm. Whether in government or opposition, no sound leadership should tolerate violence in their circles. The late President Levy Mwanawasa was very clear on violence. He clearly stated that whoever was involved in violence was on his own and would not be protected by the (MMD) Party. This message was very effective as it brought sanity in our young democracy. Individual human rights were respected. Everyone felt the sense of protection from the President. Sir, it takes the presidency to be firm and denounce violence, otherwise our country will slowly but surely slide into confusion as security wings become helpless.

It is my prayer sir, that we work together as a nation to build our country without fear of intimidation or attack. Then, shall our slogan “One Zambia One Nation” be meaningful as everyone shall be embraced in our national agenda. I personally condemn any act of violence or damage to property. Violence or damage to property cannot develop our country. We need to embrace each other and move forward despite our political differences. KK used to preach “Love your neighbor as you love yourself”. Threats are not the option.

I am appealing to you, Mr President, as the one we have entrusted with the powers, for the sake of our beautiful country, that we put aside our differences, put aside our pride, sit together with all political players and move our country to prosperity.

I pray that we may not be led in the trap of other countries where personal interests have plunged them into conflict. We love our country and we would want to preserve the peace that we have enjoyed since independence. The welfare of Zambia is everyone’s responsibility.

Though I have confined my thoughts to the tourism industry, other economy sectors could also equally be affected.

I therefore appeal to you that the unfortunate Threatened State of Emergence should not destroy the economic progress we have achieved as a country.

I make this humble appeal as a concerned citizen of the Republic of Zambia and I hope to get feedback from you Mr. President.

Former Chairman for Livingstone Tourism Association

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