Interview with Felix Chaila, Zambia Tourism

Managing Director, Zambia Tourism Board
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Emerging  adventure capital


Felix Chaila Managing Director, Zambia Tourism Board

Releasing the potential of the Indian market and actively promoting itself for the past three years, Zambia foresees itself as a destination for the young travellers with its innovative adventure products, says Felix Chaila.

With your promotion of destination Zambia in Indian market through events such as SATTE, how has it been so far?

It’s been good for us. As you may have noticed, it looks like we are the only country from the sub-Sahara Africa in SATTE this year and we are getting all the attention. We are the new kid on the block and we are happy to be here. We are here to start consolidating ourselves on the Indian market with regards to introduction of Zambia as a standalone destination for the Indian outbound travellers.

What is your strategy in Indian market?

Indian market is a must. We have been here for the last three years. This was our second year in SATTE. First year, we went to OTM. In the first year, we were more explorative. We knew very little about the Indian market except that we put India as one of the measuring markets that we needed to look at. While in the second year, we were looking for partners to work with. Last year, we worked with Blue Square whom I met at the World Travel Market (WTM) three years ago. We had them on project basis for our participation in both OTM and SATTE. This year, we know a lot about the market and we are clear about what we must do about it. And we have now started the consolidation. That’s what was our strategy. As soon as we went on the ground with Blue Square, the first thing that we did was the sales for Mumbai. We have been very busy here looking at the trade. We met some very important players in the market and we’ll continue after SATTE to go and do sales course. So you see that there’s a development beyond what we had done before.

Other significant indicator of Zambia’s seriousness about the Indian outbound market is the fact that I, as a chief executive of the Zambia Tourism, came to SATTE and to India on promotion for the first time. So every year, we are upping the gap and we want to do training for the trade first. We are going to invest on media exposure for our promotion, that is, we are going to guys like yourselves in terms of making media trips to Zambia so that you can tell the consumer about the destination and endorse it. As you come to Zambia you will find it as a very exciting destination.


One can do whitewater rafting, canoeing, elephant safari, helicopter overflights over the Victoria Falls, which is situated in the adventure capital of Southern Africa, Livingstone

One can do whitewater rafting, canoeing, elephant safari, helicopter overflights over the Victoria Falls, which is situated in the adventure capital of Southern Africa, Livingstone

Third thing is to do a bit more work than just attending tourism fairs and also start doing road shows and FAM trips for trade. And of course, we will be doing advertising for the trade and when we say media, we mean the social media as well. For the next one-two years thats what we’ll be doing. We have met many people enthusiastic in trade. Also I need to tell you that there are a lot of common things between Zambia and India. You may not know this, but there’s big Indian population in Zambia that came around 100-150 years ago. You will, therefore, find Indian delights such as roti (flat bread), aaloo parantha (fried bread stuffed with potato), nimbu paani (lemonade) and garam chai (hot tea). That’s just an example of the closeness between India and Zambia. There are a lot of Indian investors in Zambia. It is a very welcoming destination. It is democratic and progressive. There is no disease in Zambia, there is no ebola and there is no terrorism. And we have got great products.

What is it that you offer to the travellers as destination?

Victoria Falls, one of the largest water falls of the world, in Livingstone is one of the seven natural wonders of the world. It’s the only natural wonder of the world in Africa. So firstly, we offer the Indian outbound market the Victoria Falls.

Secondly, we offer you the experience of wildlife like you have never experienced before. Zambia has more than 20 national parks. The largest national park, the Kafue National Park, is about 220,000 sq km and is much bigger, for example, than Netherlands. The South Luangwa National Park has the highest concentration of wildlife with leading population of hippos in the world. It is unspoilt, uncommercialised, pristine and that’s where the walking safari was introduced. If the Indian outbound market wants to experience real and authentic wildlife, Zambia is the place.

Now we bring you back to the Livingstone. We call Livingstone the adventure capital of Southern Africa. You can do Bungee jumping, whitewater rafting, canoeing, upsailing, helicopter overflights over the Victoria Falls. Also there’s flight of the angels which is a microlight flying where there’s a small plane in which there’s only the pilot and you and you can fly over the Victoria Falls with no protection. So you feel like you’re flying and it is absolutely out of this world. The Victoria Falls has been written as one of the top ten sites that you can see from the sky in Africa. Devil’s Pool, at the tip of the fall, is two metres away from the fall that drops down to 110 metres deep. It has been rated by TripAdvisor as one of the top ten natural swimming pools of the world. There’s an island call the Livingstone island from where the first westerners saw the Victoria falls. Google shows that the Devil’s Pool has been viewed by more than 20 million people. Everybody must see the Victoria Falls to believe it. And I know that the Indian outbound travellers, especially the young people would want to come and see the Victoria Falls.

Zambia has been historically known for the copper production. We are an economy that is very progressive and we potential for tourism. Although it was not emphasised before, now when you come to Zambia, the facilities that you’ll find in hotels and the restaurants are relatively newer, modern as per the international standards and affordable. Zambia is 750,000 square kilometre in land size with only 14 million people. It means, as compared to India, the people per square kilometre is close to none. Now what does that mean to the Indian tourists. It means after you have worked so hard and tired from the traffic jams and pollution, when you come to Zambia you are coming to renew your lungs because there’s fresh air, its green and there’s no hassle and bustle. What more can you ask for. And also there are many cultural products. We got a diverse culture. It is a paradise. There is no ebola, no terrorism, no crime. People who see Victoria Falls get an above expectation experience and tell us that they never knew about these places.

How do you project Zambia as a destination?

We have MICE in Livingstone for conferencing, team building, board meetings and conventions. And there’s a lot of facilities. There are many hotels, large and small, that give MICE facilities. Sporting MICE is more in the capital city but we don’t play cricket. However, we can teach you how to play football so that’s the opportunity for MICE.

Then we have adventure. Livingstone, like I mentioned before, is growing in reputation as adventure capital of southern Africa. You may actually need 2-3 days in hand to satisfy your adrenaline. So adventure is a growing tourism.

Then there’s culture and nature. If you went through our website, you’ll find a diverse range of cultural products. We are holding a Livingstone International Culture and Arts Festival at the end of March in Livingstone and a number of countries would be coming. And I think we have also invited India through the Indian High Commission. We have such traditional ceremonies throughout the year. As we open up Indian market to Zambia, tourists would have a choice of when to come and what they want to see.

In nature, we offer the Victoria Falls. But most importantly we have the wildlife sanctuaries. There is no better destination than Zambia for nature.

Additionally, we have history and heritage and business tourism. Generally Zambia is considered as from mid-range to high end as we don’t want it to be affected by mass tourism.

But doesn’t that put a limitation to the backpackers?

We recognise the importance of backpackers and have some lovely facilities such as self-drive for the section, especially in Livingstone. But, there are a plenty of them. Backpackers open the door to other things as well. So actually Zambia is a mix.


South Luangwa National Park in Zambia has the highest concentration of wildlife

South Luangwa National Park in Zambia has the highest concentration of wildlife

When I say mass tourism, we don’t want our wildlife sanctuaries to be overcrowded and spoilt. But the good thing is that they are in plenty. And we have zones. We have such offers in high end that we get celebrities who come into the country to not get noticed because they mostly like to be exclusive. They like to be left alone, you wont even know when they have come and gone.

With your strategies and products in place, how has the response of Indian travellers been so far?

The best indicator I can give you is that in 2013, the Indian leisure tourist arrival in Zambia grew by 11 pc even though we had not started doing any serious marketing back then. Therefore, I am expecting that with such start to 2015, the growth should even be more. I am confident about it because I am also gauging from the reaction of the trade.

Can you give us some numbers?

It is still too early for that. When we get back, we are going to sit down and fine tune the strategy. Then we will be indicating what kind of numbers we can expect and set the targets. Right now we are just getting the feel.

How is the connectivity between India and Zambia and how is the frequency?

There’s always a relationship between the tourism board and the airlines because we help to fill their planes. And we have a good working relationship with Kenya Airways. Kenya Airways flies to Mumbai and they also connect you directly from Nairobi to Livingstone. Most flights connect to the capital city Lusaka than to the tourist destinations. However, Kenya Airways goes directly to Livingstone from Mumbai as well as to Lusaka. Then there’s Ethiopian airlines that is also very active and excited about Zambia’s campaign to India. Then of course we have Emirates, but they are more self content with their marketing efforts. So we give you these three for now but I am sure there would be more. All these are daily flights. I think Kenya Airways has more than one which is good for a start.

What are your expectations from 2015 and how do you see yourself in five years in Indian market?

In five years time, I want to think that we would be receiving at least half a million Indian leisure tourists. We hope to be known to the Indian market and probably one of the most favoured destinations for the young and trendy.

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