THE declaration of Zambia as yellow fever-free zone by the World Health Organisation (WHO) is a welcome move that will ease the hustle that many travellers in and out of Zambia had to face previously.
Travellers in and out of Zambia already have enough headaches about visa requirements to most countries within and outside the region, and the yellow fever vaccination is one small matter that everyone would want to do away with.
Such cross-border bottlenecks must be avoided. None more so now when the vision of late Libyan leader Muamar Gaddafi of a United Africa has
been realised in some way through regional blocks such as COMESA, SADC and ECOWAS.
It is imperative, however, on the Government to expedite the formalising of the rating of Zambia by the WHO so that sooner, rather than later, the yellow fever vaccination card is no longer a mandatory requirement for people travelling from Zambia.
Lately there has been an increased Ebola preparedness networking among countries, which has seen intensified screening of travellers at most major airports such as the OR Tambo in Johannesburg where passengers on flights from West Africa are given particular attention.
Zambia deserves to have her place in the echelons of the WHO as one country that has managed to combat some of the diseases that other
African countries are still grappling with. Leprosy, polio and to some extent malaria are some of the diseases Zambia has fought successfully.
We particularly welcome the declaration of Zambia as a yellow fever-free zone which comes at a time the Government has identified tourism as one major sector that has the potential to create the much-needed jobs as well as to steady the economy, if well-nurtured.
The Government has already moved a step by developing the airports’ infrastructure as a measure to increase tourist arrivals. The Zambia Tourism Board has been urging stakeholders to package tourism sites in a more attractive fashion, appealing to the international world.
Coupled with the estimated tourist arrivals of just over 1,000,000 people, we believe these are some of the positives that people intending to travel to Zambia will be looking at. It will still take a lot of effort from tour operators to convince people to visit Zambia and not another country.
Understandably, Zambia’s tourist attractions are almost synonymous with what other countries in the Great Lakes Region have to offer, save for the Victoria Falls. We have to match the marketing that Kenyan and Tanzanian national parks have done.
It is inexplicable, for example, that a tourist would choose to visit the Serengeti National Park in Tanzania which has the same species of animals as Mukuni Park in Livingstone but without the extra incentive of the Victoria Falls, which is not just any other waterfalls but arguably the Seventh Wonder of the World.
This sounds like a typical case of not realising how rich our tourism endowments are over what some countries have to offer. The ZTB and other stakeholders in the tourism sector will have to be more aggressive in marketing Zambia.
We feel the declaration of Zambia as a yellow fever-free zone, coupled with the proposed abolishing of visa requirements with some countries in the region, should be one incentive that must give the impetus to tour operators to go flat-out and increase the number of tourist visitations.