Tourism Minister, Michael Kaingu has appealed to financial institutions to lower lending rates to enable tourist operators and marketers borrow more for the expansion of the tourism industry in the country.
Mr. Kaingu noted that lending rates offered by commercial banks were still high despite the Central Bank reducing the reserve ratio to 14 percent.
He observed that the rate of failure in the tourism industry was low and that commercial banks need to increase the period on which operators can borrow from the financial institutions adding that it takes years for tourist destinations to be developed.
Mr. Kaingu said this in Lusaka yestterday when he officiated at the first ever Zambia International Travel Show organized by Africast Exhibition Management at the Mulungushi International Conference Centre in Lusaka today.
He said government has developed a strategic plan to develop the tourism destinations in all the nine provinces hence it was cardinal that commercial banks lower lending rates in order to encourage operators to set up infrastructure such as lodges and hotels in designated areas.
He noted that government values and appreciates the contribution of operators to the tourism industry adding that tourism in Zambia is now growing at a faster rate and contributing significantly to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
And Mr. Kaingu has asked tourism operators and marketers to pay the new visa fees in order to help government maintain tourism infrastructure in the country.
Mr. Kaingu said government is not going to scrap off the effected visa fees as it was the only source of revenue for developing tourism destinations.
He said Zambia must develop the tourism industry using its own resources hence operators should pay visa fees so that government will not be forced to borrow from the World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF).
Mr. Kaingu however said government had requested the tourism council of Zambia to submit a report stating why the fees should be reduced or scraped off.
He added that the council has since done so and that his ministry has submitted the report to the ministries of finance, homes affairs and will be soon be submitted to the republican President.
Speaking at the same function, Africast Managing Director, Chimwemwe Nyirenda said the show was organized to help Zambia market itself to the international market ahead of the 2010 world cup in South Africa.
Mr. Nyirenda noted that as South Africa hosts the world cup, the world is now focusing its attention on the Southern African countries and that Zambia can benefit greatly if she upgrades the tourism industry.
He said Africast values tourism and that it was therefore important that marketers and operators supplement government’s efforts in developing the industry in the country.
Mr. Nyirenda disclosed that over a 100 operators and marketers are exhibiting adding that 80 percent are local and 20 percent from the Southern African Development Community (SADC), East Africa and international companies.
He said the exhibition will be an annual event adding that the number of exhibitors is expected to increase next year.