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Zambia Tourism Set for Recovery Post Pandemic

FILE - In this April 1995, file photo, a rainbow forms in a cloud of mist over the Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe.

LIVINGSTONE — Tourism in Zambia is on the rebound after suffering major losses during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a survey by the Ministry of Tourism, which found the sector operated at only 15% capacity resulting in millions of dollars in lost revenue and in hundreds of jobs.

But the study said the lifting of travel restrictions has brought a 70% increase in visitors in the country's tourism capital, Livingstone.

Today, tourists are again flocking to sites like Victoria Falls, one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World, shared with neighboring Zimbabwe.

Other attractions include the annual migration of about 10 million fruits bats to Kasanka National Park and a wide range of bird species in Lagoon National Park about 100 kilometers from the capital, Lusaka.

The international travel and hospitality business is set to return to pre-pandemic levels, with twice as many people going abroad during the first quarter of 2023 than in the same period of 2022, according to the United Nations World Tourism Organization.

In 2019, Zambia generated around $849 million from the tourist trade, according to figures from the International Trade Administration. This corresponds to 3.7 percent of the southern African nation's gross domestic product – the total value of goods and services produced in the country in one year.

Greg Jackson, one of many tourists from the United States, welcomes the end of the COVID-19 pandemic.

"It feels great to travel around the world and be able to go places again," he said. [Victoria Falls] is a beautiful natural place, and we’ve got to keep these places protected as long as we can.”

The return of international visitors comes as a relief to tourism operator Chipasha Mapoma.

“We have had a large increase in the scale of people coming through especially regarding our airlines which are usually fully booked,” he declared. “Now, we are getting a large number of people coming to the hotel. On a scale of 1 – 100, we are looking at [a minimum of more than 70 percent increase].”

UNWTO Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili said in the organizations 2023 World Tourism Barometer the start of the year has shown again tourism's ability to bounce back from a recession.

But while things are looking good, Pololikashvili cautions on the need to remain alert to challenges ranging from geopolitical insecurity, staffing shortages, and the potential impact of the cost-of-living crisis on tourism.