By Wesley Ngwenya
Last week, I happen to go on a working trip to Livingstone. The purpose of the trip was to bring awareness of the new product we were launching at work as well as solicit business in the Southern Province. I stayed at a fairly nice lodge within the downtown area of the city. The lodge is a very quite place surrounded by a beautiful forest making it look very natural.
Tourism in Zambia continues to grow substantially and is a major contributor to our national GDP. One can see from the endless hotel structures being erected all over Livingstone. I asked one hotel owner how they are able to stay in business with such competition emerging every day. He clearly stated that business was becoming cutthroat and not very easy.
During my working trip, last week, my target market was specifically the hospitality industry. I talked with hotel owners as well as managers working the industry. What shocked me is how these businesspeople were not putting the Zambian people in the equation. They were talking about advertising in South Africa, their rates were in dollars, and were quick to jump to their feet at the sight of a white face.
There is no doubt that the many foreigners, who visit the country, bring some substantial revenue to the tourism industry and the country at large. However, I find it rather appalling that the industry has overlooked the spending power of Zambians. Zambia has a growing middle class that is earning anywhere between $1,500 to $3,000 a month. This group can potentially spend a good portion of their income on a good local holiday. Unfortunately, I know many friends and family members who are right now on holiday in Cape Town, Australia or the United Kingdom. Why can’t these people spend a good vacation in Livingstone? Because the industry has completely ignored them.
What Livingstone and the tourism industry need to do is design local vacation packages that are Zambian tailored. Packages that specifically target the local market. There is plenty of money within Zambia that could be spent within the borders. A business that will stand out and target this group, in the next few years, will certainly have a first-mover advantage. Its revenue will increase and it can cut its advertising costs by placing local ads instead of using foreign media. In fact, here in Zambia, the advertising medium is plenty and very cheap.
Zambians also need to start looking and exploring the various vacation destinations within the country. Even Rupiah needs to stop going to Mfuwe and look at checking out places like Mongu, Mwinilunga or Kasaba Bay for a holiday. Let him lead by example. Spending holidays in Zambia does not only help our economy but it is also cheap and less headache.
Supporting industries such as airlines also need to target the Zambian middle class in order to support the industry. It will be great if in the next twelve months we see the airwaves showing adverts of a Zambian family taking a vacation in Livingstone, doing Banji Jumping, taking a helicopter ride above the falls or rafting the rough waters. What a perfect Zambia that would be.