Zambian Tourism - Competitive advantage lost??





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  1. #1
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    Default Zambian Tourism - Competitive advantage lost??

    Its a known fact that Zambia as a tourist destination is prohibitively expensive. There are various reasons for this which mostly stems from the way the GRZ manages their National Parks through ZAWA and then also the Zambian Tourism Board which seems to be without any direction or initiative.

    Lodge owners to a large extent, but note not all of them, have also capitalized on this notion that the tourist can be charged anything....."what we have in Zambia can only be experienced in Zambia, therefore pay what we charge or stay home if you don't like it” type attitude.

    Zambia has never really focused on the South African market. Most of their failed efforts were to attract Europeans and Americans. That market has collapsed for reasons well known, to such an extent that some lodges will not even re-open this year.

    Yet still, at most camps within National Parks and at some of the lodges in GMA’s self drive camping are not allowed. I heard an argument the other day that should camping be allowed it’s quite possible that a large portion of the annual fixed ZAWA charges due by lodge owners can be covered by income from campers thus rendering the mainstream operation more profitable.

    It would be interesting to hear from the 4x4 community what they think of Zambia as a destination and what should be done to make Zambia more accessible?
    From the points raised we can put a document together and address it to the Zambian authorities. It might just help them to wake up!
    Last edited by mfuwefarmer; 2009/04/28 at 10:35 AM.

  2. #2
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    Went to Zambia two years ago and while I found Kafue quite interesting due to the different kinds of animals you dont get here (eg Puku, their different sub species of water buck - without the ring around their butt, far more ornate bush buck, and bird life etc, not to mention many massive crocodiles).

    The overall impression was one of being constantly ripped off. From the moment you enter you are paying quite large sums to all and sundry, and it just keeps happening. What particularly annoyed were the "levies" payable to each local council chief or whatever as you move around the country. You dont get any service or anything in exchange. But to drive down a particular road you have to pay. I suppose you could say its similar to a toll fee, but some of the roads on which it was charged were sand/mud needing full on 4x4! It was very clear that the money wasnt for the upkeep of the facilities but for somebody's pocket!

    Same goes for the ferries. I read somewhere that initiatives to build bridges are constantly torpedoed by the local politicians due to the very lucrative returns on operating the various ferries. Of course foreign cars pay extra.

    Park rates were quite high and confusing. We had a near disaster because we booked and paid in advance through some travel agent who assured us that everything was taken care of. But when we got to the park gate we found that the ZAWA fees had not been paid. So we had to fork out quite a lot more in USD. Plus in and amongst the money we paid in advance they had charged us quite a large "bed fee" which was not applicable because we were camping. But to their credit when we queried it on arrival at the lodge they refunded us in cash.

    In general I found the people quite friendly and polite, but their overall concept of foreign tourists seems to be that we are all an endless source of funds which should be tapped to the utmost!

    Definitely think twice about going back.

  3. #3
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    Is it not the case that Zambia is trying to do the Botswana thing (low numbers, high price), without the infra-structure and reputation to support it? Zimbabwe, on the other hand, always did the high numbers, realistic pricing thing.......and had a great reputation as a result. Zim was though of in Europe as the second best tourist destination in Africa after Kenya.

    Zambia also upset a lot of Europeans when they doubled the visa fees overnight, and made multi-entry visas a ridiculous 250 or so. This wasn't really designed to encourage tourists to come and visit!!!

    So, when Zimbabwe gets itself sorted, Zambia will be virtually empty again! If I were in the Zambian Government I would be hoping that Mugabe clings to power for years, and so keeps a huge competitor out of the tourist game.

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    I've spent a lot of time in Zambia. Even managed a camp in one of the parks. Parks like LZNP, SLNP, and NLNP do not have camping facilities in the parks, so we are stuck with waiting to get into and out of the parks at reasonable hours for game viewing. The problem lies in that the best viewing hours are in the early AM and late PM hours of the day. This is important when you consider in August Sept Oct and Nov, the wildlife are heading for the shade most of the daylight hours, while parks like Hwange, Mana Pools, Matusadona, you are camping right there in the park. And the fees are far less then Zambia's. To get to the best game viewing in a place like LZNP, by the time you get there midday, you have just about need to turn back.

    Campsites in Kafue for the most part have been disappearing, Busanga Plains qualifies like LZNP. You get there late in the game viewing hours.

    The sad part is that the parks in Zambia are faced with reduced access compared to Zimbabwe, SA, Namibia, and Botswana due to the conditions of their tracks during the rainy season. So Zambia should be trying harder.

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    Quote Originally Posted by mfuwefarmer View Post
    Lodge owners to a large extent, but note not all of them, have also capitalized on this notion that the tourist can be charged anything....."what we have in Zambia can only be experienced in Zambia, therefore pay what we charge or stay home if you don't like it” type attitude.
    While I agree that Zambian rates are fairly high, one has to bear in mind that the vast majority of the lodges can only operate for five to seven months of the year because they get completely cut off during the rains. So they have to maintain the lodges and pay staff for the down time as well.

    While the park fees are relatively high compared to South Africa, they are still, to my mind, not exorbitant - I don't mind paying $65 a day for a family of four for the privilege of being the only tourists in the Nanzhila Plains section of southern Kafue!

    Re the camping issue - the prudent lodge owners like Steve Smith at Nanzhila, Tom Heineken at Kaingu, Chris and Charlotte McBride etc all encourage camping because that $7.50 or $10 a head a night is what keeps them going through the lean times and once the initial outlay has been made, campers are very low maintenance.

    Having spent extensive time in parks and wilderness areas in Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Moz, Zim, Botswana and Namibia, not to mention SA, I rate Zambia as second only to Tanzania as a wildlife destination. And, if it had Tanzania's beaches, it would be number one!

    Tony
    Last edited by Tony Weaver; 2009/04/26 at 12:15 PM.
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  6. #6
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    I am not very worried.

    Zim will be opening up again in the near future and tourism and mining will be the one that will be putting them back on the map. If Zambia is going to out price themselves, then Zim will get the benefit.

    Zim is 15km from me.............
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    Zambia indeed charges high for National parks, but unfourtunately not more than Botswana or nowdays Namibia... However, the density, marvellous sightings and lonely close encounters make it worth. From that point of view I agree with Tony. At the other hand, the 'Zimbabwe argument' makes much sense, exepted for the fact that much of the 'official' lower budget accomodation was allready in decline before the time uncle Robert lost his head...
    Never the less, the Zambian country offers much more than wildlife. Last year we visited the North-eastern part of the country and experienced the most magnificant waterfalls, a marvellous Motumbuku ceremony and much more, all at relativly low prices or even for free... We different times camped just near a beautifull waterfall (without accomodation) and were allowed to camp by friendly and helpfull (sometimes a little too much )people in the neighbourghhood without charging anything...
    Moreover, the Luanga vally offers different community campsites (see comaco) -chalets and camping- at very reasonable prices and really worth visiting. Alltough none of them are inside a NP, all off them are on marvellous settings and offer beautifull walks at the border of the national parks with good wildlife sightings.

    May be it would be a good idea to to list on this site all 'reasonable budget' experiences Zambia is offering for campers and 4x4 travellers ?

    This said, we never experienced the 'road levy problem (last time we were in Western Zambia was 2006 and more intense in 2003), read a few threads about this problem but had the impression that nowdays this problem was solved out... any news about that?
    Also we fear that many zambian officials have a certain 'racist' behavior to South Africans: indeed we several noticed we were waved trough road blocks (with onbly a friendly chat) while an SAcar was stopped and searched trough completely. Moreover we once entered Zambia with an SA-hired car and were stopped and fined several times for stupiditys while we NEVER had any problem with a Zambian hired car (visited the country 3X1month with a Zambian car) ....

  8. #8
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    Here is the thing:

    I love Botswana and have been there many times over the past 5 years or so. However, over the last 2 years I have been noticing a massive change in the type of person going there and the ease of accessibility to the nicest places. I blame the new roads and upgraded ablutions! On my last visit there it was so overcrowded with South African bush Hooligans (Our version of Football Hooligans I assume) that I almost feel like avoiding it now. SAD BUT TRUE.

    Almost all mass tourist destinations that I have been to in Africa have an issue with locals and con men trying to extort money from tourists. Who's fault is that then? Think back at how so many people got ripped off on money excahnges at Vic Falls a decade or so ago. Every single person who got ripped off was someone who was breaking the law and not changing his money at a bank. At the same time the Kaokoland in Northern Namibia had no beggars at all... You could camp wild anywhere and traded a bit of coffee aor maize to the local chief as camping fees for the night.

    It was standard practice to have a carton of cigarettes or some beers in your car to use as a bribe at a road block in Zimbabwe and Zambia. How the %^&$&^ can people now be so shocked and surpriosed when road block authoroties are corrupt? However, now Vic Falls seems calm and easy becasue of the lack in tourism while the tourists to Northern Namibia has managed to teach the Himba that it is ok to beg and ok to intimidate tourists into giving them money (Only a matter of time before they also through rocks as in Leshotho)

    So now the question arises: Where to next to avoid bush hooligans and intimidating beggars? ? Zambia is one of the first places that comes to mind, excluding Livingstone. And I for one hope that Zambia does not become an easy destination to get to and I hope that the problems stay so that people that want to have an easy holiday and drink brannas and coke at 6am and play loud music (Leeuloop) next to the ablution blocks in National Parks see Zambia as much too difficult a destinantion. I also would like to see more oppertunities for self drive campers in the parks, but reading Tony's posts and trip reports and doing a bit of research it seems that it is possible in most areas.

    Zimbabwe is the same. I have traveled Zimbabwe extensively in the mid 1990's and loved the wildlife destinations! Now it's returning to acceptable, and with the inside information of Dick and Sally (www.zim4x4.com I think), I think the few of us who realize that we are guests in their country and not their rulers will return there soon and often.

  9. #9
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    WOW, almost 24 hours and no angry responses.... Does this mean you guys are silently agreeing with me?

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    Ek stem saam!
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    Then it it a chisel.

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    I agree with what you are saying. We also like to go to the non tourist destinations. That is why I am so keep on Zim. The people are acctually glad to see you. Lets just hope that the Brannas and Coke brigade don't like not having decent ablutions.
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    This said, we never experienced the 'road levy problem (last time we were in Western Zambia was 2006 and more intense in 2003), read a few threads about this problem but had the impression that nowdays this problem was solved out... any news about that?
    Also we fear that many zambian officials have a certain 'racist' behavior to South Africans: indeed we several noticed we were waved trough road blocks (with onbly a friendly chat) while an SAcar was stopped and searched trough completely. Moreover we once entered Zambia with an SA-hired car and were stopped and fined several times for stupiditys while we NEVER had any problem with a Zambian hired car (visited the country 3X1month with a Zambian car)
    While we were stopped frequently, I never got the feeling that we were singled out for special treatment. In fact my impression was that our local Metro cops should go there for training! Their police were always smartly dressed (clothes well ironed, shoes polished etc), they stood up straight (they didnt lounge all over your car they way our cops do), were very polite etc. I got no sense at all of any sort of funny business going on. All they wanted to see were the various documents that we were warned that police would check when we got them at the border. As soon as you showed them those they were quite happy to wave us through.

    Regarding "levies". We had to pay the local council on arrival from South West, on some deeply rutted sand/mud road in the middle of nowhere. on the way to Mongu (pole accross the road), and on the way out of Livingstone towards Kasane.

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    Agreed about the friendliness of Zambian officials - we never had a single bad moment in five weeks of travel there. It always helps to learn the local greetings. I luckily speak reasonable KiSwahili, which even though not widely spoken there, is a good ice breaker. Learn a few regional greetings in Lozi, Chichewa or others and it makes a helluva difference.

    For me, though, the real attraction of Zambia is that, as Eric says, you can find the most wonderful wild places outside the parks for very little money. Bear in mind that there are many Game Management Areas outside the parks that teem with wildlife and are free. Outside Kafue, three of the lodges in the most beautiful part of the region - Kaingu, Puku Pans and Mukambi - fall in the GMAs and not in the park.

    Similarly, there are many GMA and other areas bordering South Luangwa where the game is plentiful. All the self-catering/camping lodges there fall outside the park.

    When I worked for a couple of days photographing elephant collaring in the Lower Zambezi National Park, we saw as much wildlife in the GMA as we did in the core section of the park.

    The one sad exception to this was Lukusuzi NP, just east of the Luangwa, where part of our team flew transects doing a game count while the rest of us were collaring elephants in North Luangwa - they saw a few lone sable and nothing else, just lots of illegal mining going on.

    Tony
    Last edited by Tony Weaver; 2009/04/29 at 12:35 PM.
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    I've never been to Zambia, but for a long time I've been eyeing places like SLNP and Kafue. The problem starts when they already charge nearly a grand at the gate and venues are quoted in USD. It just spells rip-off and many trip reports do state this. I don't know if it is that much different or better to justify the costs and distance. As an example; nearly everybody who travels to Bots and Nam will have a fantastic experience and will encourage other overlanders to go there. I don't see the same feedback about Zambia, besides a few okes like Eric and Tony. Maybe it is an anti SA attitude they need to clear up.
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    Hoffie, I have never encountered an anti-SA attitude there, whether overlanding as a tourist, or working there with ZAWA (Zambian Wildlife Authority). There is, as there equally is in Botswana, Mozambique, Namibia and elsewhere, antagonism towards badly behaved tourists of any nationality. These naturally tend to be mostly South African because there are more of us out there.

    I also think that very few of us rave about Zambia because very few of us go there compared to Namibia and Bots - where else can you have half a national park the size of Kruger (southern Kafue) entirely to yourself at the height of the SA school holidays?

    Tony
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  16. #16
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    Guys, there never was and hopefully never ever will there be an anti SA feeling in Zambia. I have been here for more than 10 years now and have never experienced it.
    Last edited by mfuwefarmer; 2009/04/29 at 08:58 PM.

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    Just to come back to the suggestion of mfuwefarmer. I think it is a great idea. If we can put together a document with our concerns and send it to the Zambian authorities, they might just consider it. Maybe we can suggest that they introduce a SADC fee. Last week I spoke with European and American visitors and they find the ZAWA fees reasonable (because they earn euros and dollars), but if you earn rands it is a different story. If they introduce a reasonable SADC fee, they will get more South African visitors to their own benefit. I don't think overcrowding will become a problem. It is still a long way to drive form SA and here are a lot of parks. They roads will remain a problem because many of them are washed away during the rainy season.

  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by mfuwefarmer View Post
    Guys, there never was and hopefully never ever will there be an anti SA feeling in Zambia. I have been here for more than 10 years now and have never experienced it.
    Anti SA is probably too strong a term. What I mean is that they don't seem to be interested in SA overlanders. If I, as a SADC member, pay an acceptable amount (as in Bots and Nam) at the border and not be over regulated in the parks, Zambia would move up my list. I avoid SA parks because of the strict control, they assume all travellers are idiots. Bots and Nam parks basically leave you to think for yourself (excluding Etosha). I'm not in the tourist industry, but would imagine that people paying a few grand a night at a fancy lodge do not have the same economic benefit as an overlander spending foreign currency on border charges, fuel, food, park fees, vehicle service and repairs, ect. Just because I prefer to camp in a tent does not mean I do not have cash to spend. I feel Zambia should do more to promote their parks to the self drive overlander. This is not a bitch, I want to go there but need convincing to travel that far
    Last edited by Hoffie; 2009/04/30 at 09:25 AM.
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  19. #19
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    I agree with Heinrich that an SADC fee might help to get more South Africans into Zambia without overcrowding the place. If there are more self-drive, camping, SA visitors (not 4x4 hooligans!) then the camps would be more viable (campers could cover most of the overheads) and they could still keep their US$ lodges busy with European and American visitors. Self-drive and "lodge living" are two completely different experiences - there is room for both and they should be priced differently. I think that the Zambian authorities appear to be focusing very much on the high end and not making it affordable for the self-drive camper - for example why is there no camping in the Busanga Plains which is a main attraction? I think there is room for both without overcrowding and spoiling the experience for either market group.
    I have wanted to visit Zambia for a long time and will be in Kafue (at last!) during July. What attracted me were the open spaces, wilderness experience and few people (that is why I chose Kafue and not SLNP). We are a family of 4 so the lodges are out and we are camping which is fine because it is the type of experience we are looking for. Even while camping, I can live with higher prices in return for some "exclusivity - low volumes" and the camping fees at the Lodge campsites are fine. I think the daily park fees however are steep when you have a family and add the camping fee on top. This is where a SADC fee might be appropriate. I realise that a SADC fee has its own management/control problems but it would help and encourage the SA traveler.
    Another area that could be improved is the border crossings - I last visited Zambia in 2000 and crossed at Kazangula - I travel on an EU passport and I did not enjoy the experience as there were all sorts of fees and no one (officials) seemed to give a straight answer which created the impression of being ripped-off - some officials were literally and brazenly putting money in their pockets and not in the provided cash boxes! Maybe the situation is better now. The Botswana and Namibian crossings are a real pleasure and I see no reason why the Zambian ones should be any different.
    My comments apply mainly to those wanting to visit the National Parks because I note (from reading postings on this web-site) that there are many interesting self-drive options in Zambia that are far away from expensive lodges/park fees and affordable to those with a sense of adventure.
    I am sure I will be a bit wiser after the trip!

  20. #20
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    I think there is a SADC type of proposal on the table for tourists. How long before they implement is another question. It is supposed to go hand in hand with the Transfrontier parks.
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