By Edward Chisanga
Just as The Great Wall of China is no longer the basis of Chinese tourism, Zambia too much adapt and create new tourist products or make amendments to existing ones. We must study the behavior of international tourists and find out exactly what motivates them. Often, the perception of African and Zambian leaders, is that they will come to see our Victoria Falls, one of the wonders of the world and game or wild animals. In the product life cycle, Victoria falls, like other God-given natural things is a declining product.
We can no longer base the planning and development of tourism on the Victoria falls. God-created resources like Victoria falls are of course important and can earn us wealth. But they’re not sustainable. After some years, they lose their meaning and may even become relics and obsolete. Just like human beings, products like Victoria falls eventually reach the declining stage and need rebirth or improvement.
Let’s stop celebrating winning small economic wars. Victoria falls and what the country earns from it is what I consider small economic wars. We don’t earn much because the product is incomplete. To win big economic war means making Victoria falls, including where it sits more beautiful than it is today.
China no longer uses the Great Wall as its main tourism products. What you saw and impressed you most from the visit to China was not the Great Wall or other God-given resources. It was the cities of Beijing, Shenzhen, Jinggangshan, etc that captured your complete attention. You saw many more visitors to these cities than you would have seen if you had visited the Great Wall.
White people like visiting nice-looking and safe cities. Many Americans and Europeans visit Chinese cities perhaps much more than they do their own cities because of beauty and what they offer. Look at their flowers and trees in the streets, parks, playgrounds, and gardens. In these cities, dust was last seen by builders of the cities. Children born thereafter have never seen dust in their lives.
They visit these cities because they’ve all the necessary facilities that any civilized country provides. As they walk on the streets, drink, and enjoy themselves, they will need to go to the toilets. They easily have access to clean and affordable public toilets in the streets. They find abundant and quality food, drinks, and things. Hotels are abundant and affordable, clean and their attendants friendly. Pickpockets and other thieves are kept under strict control.
These cities offer limitless and continuous energy and electricity to their tourists. They know nothing about load shedding and electricity going off. Tourists visiting them know nothing about it either. You never experienced it too, did you?
If you signed a memorandum of understanding on tourism, we know what product you’re focusing on. There’s nothing else other than Victoria falls. Oh, sorry, you’ve got wildlife or game. That’s another declining product. You cannot keep on promoting God-given things which have no value-addition and expect to create big wealth. Game too is a simple economic war that you are fighting. Learn to fight big economic wars.
In Zambia’s Livingstone, these tourists you saw in China and yourselves will have no access to good city facilities. Livingston is not a tourist city. Perhaps to you, not to me. We are simply lucky we have Victoria falls in it which attracts few tourists. It runs out of energy and electricity like other cities in the country. And tourists are not exempted from this mess.
We ask them to come, and they come only to be subjected to things we used to hear about the dark continent when we were children, and sixty years on, after independence, we are about to die leaving them. Where do tourists go to empty their bladders and …when they’re in Livingston streets outside their hotels?
When they want to phone their relatives abroad, they’re confronted with network challenges they never experience in their towns. They can’t buy this and that because our shops have network challenges.
Beggars are everywhere encircling them. Street kids have their own plans to get to tourists to beg. The hired tourist driver collecting them from the airport and taking them back has his own agenda to ensure they give him something. Hotel workers attending to them give them the “I’m hungry look.” If they carelessly leave important articles, items, money, etc in their rooms, in other places, they may not find them.
To win large economic wars means that we must address all these problems which we don’t tell them. We only tell them sweetness. The basis of good tourism that can create big wealth for our people, is to ensure that we eradicate all these challenges. Don’t simply pick on me as a bad Zambian who lists bad things about our country as if I’m not Zambian. Do self-soul-searching. Look in the mirror with me. And, I have sympathy for the new dawn government becaeuse you’re new and did not create this mess. But take advantage and create more exciting things than the Victoria falls and game.
Make Livingston a real tourist town. Let tourists come to Livingston not only to see the Victoria falls but the town and its good things. It’s understandable that a poor country like ours cannot build good towns because we have no money. But perhaps the next budget should focus on ensuring that Livingston is beautiful and competitive in the region.
According to Zambian economists and government, debt restructuring will give us enough funds to spend on development. Upgrading Livingston to international standards may bring a multiplier effect on economic development. It’s a pity, when you were in China, you could have asked to visit some small town which you could use, ask China to help you expand Livingston into that model.
As I conclude, here’s a piece of advice. When you borrow, next time, perhaps borrow big to upgrade Livingston. It might sound reckless, but that borrowing might have a multiplier effect of benefits in the long-term. Another advice. Don’t ask tourists to come only to face these challenges. When they go back home, they’ll campaign against us, that we are liars who talk sweet and deceitful ‘stories. Another advice: Don’t give tourists what you perceive as a good product. Instead, adopt their perception.