The Zambezi River meanders beautifully in the border area between Zambia and Zimbabwe. Then, near Livingstone, the tourist center of the poor of Zambia, and at the height of Victoria Falls in neighboring Zimbabwe, masses of water fell in them by 110 metres. It forms the most powerful waterfall in Africa, Victoria Falls. But this spectacle of nature remains hidden from many citizens of both countries – they cannot pay the entrance fee.
Access is still a dream for locals
Because: “To see the best parts of the Zambezi River, you have to go to one of the holiday resorts. Or go to the border with Zimbabwe, where you have to pay a certain fee,” Livingstone’s Gift Kachembaya told DW. This is the only way to experience the fall up close.
Murchison Waterfall in Uganda: local tourists enjoy a trip in their country’s national park
As in many African countries, businessmen took advantage of the natural attractions and built lodges on the beautiful water banks and in some parks. This gives them control over access to public sites – and they charge entry fees.
Here’s a problem for Zambian tour company Donald Chomba: “That’s why our local tourism will never thrive. I wouldn’t be surprised if three-quarters of Zambians didn’t see Victoria Falls or the Zambezi Reservoir to Kariba, I think it’s wrong for these lodges to deny entry to locals or just ask them to pay.” to enter the site.
Prefer foreign tourists
In the capital, Lusaka, businessman Brian Sakala accused the government of taking a unilateral approach to boosting the tourism sector and giving preference to wealthy foreign guests. “It is unwise to create incentives for foreigners and to exclude your residents,” Saqala told DW. All Zambians should enjoy the natural resources that the country is blessed with.
Hermione Neville, a tourism expert and staff member at the International Finance Corporation (IFC), a sister organization of the World Bank Group, emphasized that supporting the domestic market in African countries is now more important than ever. “In the past, very little was invested in domestic and regional tourism in Africa in favor of higher-spending international tourists,” Neville told DW.
Local visitors enjoy their free time at La Lanterna boat restaurant in Mogadishu
The Covid crisis, with travel restrictions, has highlighted Africa’s dependence on foreign travelers: “When the pandemic hit, many tour operators realized that they depended on the local population, but they had no data or information on these markets,” he said. Neville. This generally makes African destinations less flexible than countries with a well-established indigenous travel culture.
Create incentives for local visitors
However, according to the International Finance Corporation, tourism has become vital to African economies over the past 20 years. In 2019, industry accounted for about seven percent of Africa’s GDP and contributed $169 billion to the economy – equal to the GDP of Ivory Coast and Kenya combined.
Then came the robbery. While ten million international visitors came to South Africa in 2019, that number dropped to just 2.3 million in 2021, according to a report by Hanele Slaber, head of marketing at the South African Tourism Office. Meanwhile, the numbers have recovered somewhat. But the focus is now on the domestic market in order to stimulate the industry in the long run.
The country has made domestic tourism the focus of its 2020 stimulus plan. “During the pandemic, many South Africans have taken day trips for the first time, and we’ve run our media campaigns to make sure they know what to do back home, and much of it is free.” In February 2022, 1.1 million locals traveled across the country — compared to 750,000 the year before, Slaber says in an interview with DW.
Away from khaki safari – towards an Afro-futurist
However, the growth of domestic travel in Africa is very complex, according to tourism expert Hermione Neville. The local market suffers from weak economies and low incomes of people. “This is exacerbated in Africa, where the local travel culture is very small to begin with.”
South Africa was one of the first countries in the region to launch a national strategy even before the pandemic. An example is the annual Travel Week with the “Sho’t Left” campaign. In South African slang, this means “around the corner”. Visits to every county are encouraged with tariffs halved. Offers to the poor regularly include free admission to museums, parks, or events. Middle-class travelers took more leisure trips.
Giraffe Park in Nairobi attracts both local and foreign visitors
There are now many innovative platforms such as Zulu Nomad. “Companies, also with the help of IFC, are investing more in new hotels that are still based on nature tourism but are different from traditional khaki safaris.” This kind of product will attract more regional market. Another emerging market for a new category of travel is, according to Neville, the “Afro-futurist” who defines international travel, tends to be younger and digitally savvy.
local market concepts
Aside from Kenya and Nigeria, other countries in the region still have much smaller domestic markets than South Africa. However, during the pandemic, all countries have tried to encourage local and regional travel by offering discounted fares to local tourists, says Neville.
In July 2020, fearing a lack of tourists after Corona, Kenya cut safari prices and entrance fees to several national parks by up to 50 percent for one year. Rwanda is still deliberating on a strategy to develop local and regional markets. There are also staggered price categories for domestic and foreign visitors.
In Zambia, DW asked many private sector hostels why it also asked local tourists to pay. At first there was no response. National Tourism Authority staff made it clear to DW in several conversations that the topic was of great importance. However, there were no specific statements about the authority’s plans.
Collaboration: Glory Mushinge