The solar eclipse in June and the OAU summit in July are expected to bring a large number of visitors to Zambia thus giving the country's tourism industry a much needed shot in the arm
Although the devaluation of the Zambian kwacha has made Zambian exports cheaper and therefore more competitive on ,the international market, there is one invisible export for which it make little difference.
Gaudenzio Rossi, chairman of the Hotels and Catering Association of Zambia, told African Business that the fall in the value of the Zambian kwacha has "not done much to attract more tourists to Zambia."
Rossi explained that for the international tourist, many hotels, motels and lodges have their prices quoted in US dollar. "So even in the last few months, especially late last year when the value of the Kwacha was falling, the dollar prices remained the same. It is the kwacha prices that went up."
He said, now that the Zambian kwacha is gaining marginal values, "some hotels have been reducing the kwacha prices, which is an advantage for local tourists. But many Zambians consider it an expensive luxury. Local people don't have that kind of money to spend on hotel accommodation."
Steady increase in tourist numbers
Nevertheless, Rossi said there has been a steady increase in tourists coming to Zambia, owing to the relative stability of the Zambian economy over the last two months. He said the prospects for Zambia's tourist industry are bright because of a number of international events, among them the solar eclipse next June, and the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) Heads of Stare Summit scheduled for July in Lusaka.
Because of these events, Rossi said Zambia will have what he called "a bumper harvest of international tourists. As I am speaking to you right now, all the hotels are fully booked for the eclipse of the sun."
Apart from the international events, Rossi said his association expects the country s economy to stabilise. "No one can tell the future. But we are hopeful things will improve. This," he explained," will help us plan properly. As you know it is difficult to plan when there is no stability in the economy."
The Copperbelt is slowly but surely proving to be an attractive destination, following the privatisation of the country's copper-mines. Rossi said: "In Kitwe especially, most of the hotels, lodges and guest-houses are usually full. Other towns are not performing as well, but they too are slowly building up."
In Lusaka the prospects are...