INVESTMENT in tourism infrastructure development to make destinations and services increasingly attractive is key to developing any country’s tourism sector.
This has a strong and positive impact on visitor attraction.
Investment in the sector’s infrastructure includes investment in components such as transport and communications infrastructure, the hotel and restaurant industry, as well as recreation facilities.
Boosting investments in such infrastructure is currently the most important factor in the development of the northern tourism circuit in Zambia.
The availability of adequate infrastructure to meet the needs of tourists will undoubtedly increase the number of visitors to this circuit.
The lack of supporting infrastructure has for a long time now hindered the growth of the Northern Tourism Circuit.
The northern circuit is one part of the country blessed with various natural resources such as waterfalls but lacks proper facilities to help increase tourist visitations thereby impacting the economy.
This circuit, if well exploited, can be the most attractive destination for tourism not only in the country but the region at large.
The circuit encompasses four provinces, Central, Luapula, Muchinga and Northern Provinces which all have a rich endowment of natural heritage and tourism attractions such as waterfalls, wildlife, memorial sites and sandy beaches, among others.
When it comes to waterfalls, the Victoria Falls is the most spoken of as it is among the Seven Wonders of the world and is Zambia’s pride in the tourism sector.
However, the northern circuit is blessed with beautiful attractions, which with proper infrastructure in place, can receive more visitations from both local and foreign tourists than the mighty Victoria Falls.
The circuit is home to the beautiful Lumangwe Falls which is referred to as the mini-version of the Victoria Falls.
Lumangwe Falls is 30-40 metre tall and spans a width of around 160 metres making it a classic block-type waterfall.
This waterfall is located on the border of Kawambwa district in Luapula and Mporokoso in Northern Province, on the Kalungwishi River.
According to the National Heritage Conservation Commission, (NHCC) the falls attracts a visitation of about 500 tourists a month of who mostly are local people.
A few kilometres away from Lumangwe Falls is the Kabwelumbe also on the Kalungwish river which has a converging waterfall set.
The Ntumbachushi Falls on Ng’ona River in Kawambwa district is another tourism site that has beautiful curtains and scenery full of water plants.
Mumbuluma Falls is a set of waterfalls made up of two waterfalls occurring in succession, an upper and lower falls.
It is located on Mumbuluma River in Mansa District.
In Kasama, there are the Chishimba Falls which have three waterfalls along the Luombe River.
The individual falls named Mutumuna, Kaela and Chishimba are separated by a distance of about 1,000 feet.
These falls are the second highest visitation after Victoria Falls with more than 2,000 tourists, mostly of ocal people per month.
NHCC Chishimba Falls site manager Joseph Museba says following the improvement in COVID-19 pandemic, more tourists are visiting the falls.
He says Chishimba Falls which covers about 700 hectares is unique because it has a different vegetation, unique trees, orchids and a variety of frog types.
Kalambo Falls located on the boarder of Zambia and Tanzania in Mbala district, Northern Province is the second deepest lake in Africa and the 11th in the world with a depth of 221 metres.
Despite the astonishing beauty of these waterfalls, the road networks and supporting infrastructure have been the major hindrance in growing visitations in the circuit.
Sadly, Zambia is said to be losing out on revenue because local and foreign tourists prefer viewing the Kalambo Falls on the Tanzanian side.
Local investor and tourism promoter Geoffrey Chella Sipanje says the provision of tax breaks by the Government in the tourism sector can help open up the area.
Mr Sipanje who is proprietor of Lake Chila Resort and the Kalambo Falls lodge in Mbala district says local entrepreneurs are paying a lot of taxes and fees in dollars to set up investments in tourism.
Mr Sipanje who is also a member of the Hotels and Catering Association says the northern circuit has a number of tourism sites which need supporting with facilities like game parks, hotels and lodges to attract more people to visit the area.
He advises the Government to improve the road network in the northern circuit as it is hindering tourists from visiting the place.
Mr Sipanje also says the construction of the bridge on the Lufubu River to connect to Nsumbu Game Park and Kasaba Bay should be done to open up the area for tourism.
He says most hotels and lodges in the area are losing out in terms of business especially this time of the year when roads have become impassable due to rains
Mr Sipanje further advises the local authorities in Mbala and Mpulungu to grade the Mbala- Kalambo Falls and the Moto Moto Museum roads.
“This circuit is rich and well marketed by the ministry of tourism; we all know the beautiful and historical places that are here. The only problem is the access to roads,” he says.
He says tourists are failing to visit the heritage sites due to the bad state of the roads.
On the other hand, the Government says it is working on improving connectivity in the northern circuit to help boost tourism visitation in the area.
Tourism and Natural Resources Permanent Secretary Evans Muhanga says the Government is working on opening the Kasama and Mbala airports in Northern Province to improve connectivity.
Mr Muhanga says the northern circuit is one of the priority and important areas that the ministry is developing.
“The development of the northern tourism circuit is one of the priorities for the ‘New Dawn’ government. The northern circuit by its nature is quite a far flung area.
“We need to be deliberate in order to actualise the potential that lies in that area. It is beautifully endowed with many waterfalls such the Kundalila, Ntumbachushi, the Kalambo Falls and many others,” he says.
Mr Muhanga also says the ministry of Tourism is restocking Nsumbu National Park to create wildlife and nature-based tourism.
He says the Government through other projects with the World Bank will get concessional loans for the development of the circuit.
He adds that the ministry is working with Lufubu Hydro Power Company in the provision of power in the Northern Circuit.
Mr Muhanga further says the ministry through the NHCC is building basic infrastructure in most tourism sites.
He assures that the Government is working on improving the road network in the circuit which is one of the major hindrances in the marketing and development of the sector.
The development and investment in facilities will definitely increase tourism visitation in the Northern Circuit.
The northern circuit has potential to become the country’s best tourism destination if well harnessed and developed.