Zambia Tourism Re-brand: the failed expedition

By John W. Mwanza

After winning the 2010 AFCON cup of nations, the Chipolopolo boys brought the worlds eyes on Zambia.

We had a rare opportunity in front of millions and the tourism brand did not make an appearance. There is simply no point in re-branding if you cannot identify and utilise opportunities like this one.

If Herve Renard could do this for Zambia through football, how did we fail to effectively launch and sustain the rebirth of Zambia’s Tourism

Lets re-brand

In 2009 an average of around 900 million tourist’s were moving around the world annually and of these, 90 million visited Africa with 46 million coming into southern Africa.

South Africa got an average of 36 million tourists that year and Zambia only got around 700,000. With this in mind the Zambia Tourism Board embarked on a series of road shows around the world.
Upon returning from these extensive and expensive travels, the now enlightened team shared the shocking news of Zambia’s unknown tourism offering abroad and this insight sparked the re-branding flame. In March 2010, ZTB announced that they had engaged
Cornell University of Hotel administration from the United States of America.

The university’s task was to re-brand Zambia as a preferred destination in Africa and improve its tourism market reach. We finally called in the experts. The university then put a six member student delegation to embark on new ways to analyse every facility that Zambia
has and how best to market them and then package and design persuasive and attractive catch lines to compel more people to visit Zambia. Our story as a nation was now in the very capable hands of six american students who had never lived in Zambia.
Had we overlooked a fundamental part of the exercise or was domestic tourism and local culture just not relevant enough at this stage? Several weeks later we were back at the drawing board after ruling out the logos and slogans produced by Cornell University and were instead reviewing hundreds of logos and slogans submitted in response to a competition run by ZTB.

People from all over the world who had no awareness of the reports, research and market insights that had preceded the re-brand exercise sent in the logo and slogan ideas.

It was only at this point that ZTB called in individuals from various media and advertising firm in Zambia and we selected a winning logo and slogan not necessarily by its representation of the brand values and touch points from all the intellectuals or the research by the Americans but purely by a majority vote.

We ended up choosing a slogan sent in by a South African and a logo designed by an Italian and once this was done we flew in some Congolese
rhumba stars to launch the new Zambian tourism brand.
So it is Zambia lets explore or Zambia lets fix this? At present the brand is not as strong as the previous one despite a more modern look and feel.

It failed to captivate the local tourism market and very few Zambians can tell you what the current tourism slogan for the country is or what the new tourism logo looks like.

The rebrand also failed to engage the private sector into raising the new brand’s profile even with the forthcoming United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) General Assembly to be co-hosted by Zambia and Zimbabwe next year.
Budgets Vs Creativity In February 2012, ZTB announced a total marketing budget of K9.8 billion of which K3.7 billion would be channelled to promoting domestic tourism and K4.9 billion for international marketing. There has been a lot of monies pumped into the Zambia Tourism Board but to date the ZTB website is out-dated, poorly designed and does very little to promote the new brand or Zambian tourism as a whole. We have not seen any
local tourism campaign apart from 3 of 4 poorly designed billboards dotted around Lusaka in the most inconspicuous of places. We need to know where and how the taxpayer’s money is being used and if these efforts are bearing any fruit.

Upon receiving these monies, ZTB promised to employ several tactics including consumer road shows, corporate shows, trade shows and fairs, tourist information centres, advertisement on print, billboards and electronic media, a weekly television programme, website marketing
and social media.

So lets take stock, as far as road shows are concerned we know that they travel around the world a lot with no tangible results or published reports on how effective this expensive strategy is.

The website is total a mess and so is what was supposed to be a television programme.

We have not seen any local tourism campaign apart from 2 or 3 poorly designed billboards dotted around Lusaka in the most inconspicuous of places.
They don’t have an official Facebook page or twitter account or a blog and have not produced any material for online broadcast on YouTube.
Power to the Youth Zambia’s greatest tourism asset are it’s warm, friendly and peace loving people and a tourists first impression of Zambia starts with ordinary Zambians working at airports, immigration, bus stations e.t.c it is therefore fundamental to prioritise the local tourism
market and the involvement of ordinary Zambians in the rebranding effort.

To lose the confidence of local musicians becouse we opted to invited  artists cost us a lot of brand ambassadors and created a disconnection with the youth and with local culture.
In my opinion the aspect of domestic tourism was a secondary priority through out the rebranding process. We forgot our duty to the Zambian people whose hearts and minds we had to win in order to get the nation singing the lets explore brand.

The promotion of the new brand through local culture and music was completely ignored. Zambian music
is receiving increasing airplay on radio stations around the region and we have talented musicians like Caitlin Papier, a renowned Zambian electric violinist who performs to millions around the world. How could we not make this prominent young musician a tourism ambassador?

Web-based tourism development 

An upgrade to the current ZTB website would cost a lot less than it cost us to bring two Congolese musicians to launch our brand and this should have been the first point of call before the brand was launched. An up to date website can easily create a seamless link to online social networking sites such as Facebook, LinkedIn, twitter and several others where tourists can blog about their experiences in Zambia thereof making recommendations based on their visit.

At present Zambia has over 300,000 active Facebook users online (potential online brand mobilisers) and the social network site has a total of 1billion users worldwide. This free website is the biggest brand mobilisation platform in the world but sadly ZTB has no presence there.
Online marketing is guerilla marketing at its best and this form of marketing requires a radically different approach and a vastly more fragmented way of spending resources.
Unlike print advertising and billboards on Lusaka’s cluttered streets, web based marketing is all about unique monthly visitors and page views. And how do you place an advert value on an article or images that people will keep reading and seeing online for years, month after month? How do you value a link to your website site? For someone who knows about search engine optimization, that link is very valuable. But to a board
member or director who still doesn’t know what a blog is, it’s worth far less than a one paragraph newspaper mention.


Any good re-brand or promotional campaign has to have quantifying mechanisms in place to gauge its success and the results of such have to be made public.

The target to get one million tourist arrivals by the end of 2012, increase tourists’ length of stay from an average three days to seven days and attain tourism sector Gross Domestic Product (GDP) contribution of 10 per cent per annum from the current 7 per cent is not at all achievable under the current ZTB management. As a destination Zambia is negatively affected by the poor road network, lack of air transport to some tourism attraction areas
and the frequent changing of taxes, visas and levies which make it difficult for tourism operators to price their products favorably. I would not be so naïve as to say that getting the marketing right would sort out Zambia’s tourism industry but in a country where the tourism sector is the second largest employer, it would be a very good first step considering that so many livelihood depend on it. We have as many bright and creative
minds as we have wildlife and places of interest in Zambia and we need to empower the youths to push the brand with new and innovative ideas. Lets have the older guys move up into the ministry of tourism or move into the technical advisory role so that we can bring in fresh young talent, people who actually know what an exploration is all about to run with the creative marketing operation.

ZTB is in dire need of a blood transfusion and all the bright sparks are on the outside looking in.

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