COVID-19 is a real threat to Zambia’s tourism sector and there is a high risk that many firms will shut down and disappear, undermining any ultimate economic recovery when international travel resumes.

The World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) has warned that the COVID-19 pandemic could cut 50 million jobs worldwide in the travel and tourism industry. The industry, which currently accounts for close to 10% of global GDP, is expected to contract by 20% to 30% in 2020. Zambia’s travel and tourism industry, which has shown signs of healthy growth in recent years, would be impacted significantly by the COVID-19 pandemic. In 2019, the industry contributed 7% of GDP (USD 1,701 million) and 7.2% of total employment (469 thousand jobs). International visitors spent USD 849 million, representing 10% of Zambia’s total exports.

This blog post synthesises information drawn from structured interviews administered by the International Growth Centre (IGC) in Zambia.

Zambia the “add-on” destination

Zambia is an underdog within the Regional Tourism Organization of Southern Africa (RETOSA). Though Zambia has seen a sustained increase in the number of international visitors recently (Figure 1), it is dwarfed by South Africa and still lags well behind Zimbabwe, Namibia and Botswana. Direct flights to Zambia from Europe and Asia are limited, making Zambia an “add on” destination for international travelers visiting neighboring countries like South Africa and Botswana.

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