Zambia received an early Christmas present when it was declared a yellow fever-free zone by the World Health Organization (WHO) in the run up to the end of year festivities.

As we look ahead into 2015 and beyond, this is an important step in Zambia’s tourism growth. The WHO’s acknowledgment of the work that Zambia has done to combat yellow fever comes hot on the heels of the new Zambia/Zimbabwe uni-visa that was implemented on the 1st December — both events go some way to heeding the recently renewed calls from the Zambia Tourism Board for a substantial simplification of the visa process for international visitors.

The hope is that in light of the WHO’s acknowledgment, the Department of Home Affairs will help to ensure that having to carry a yellow fever certificate when leaving Zambia is no longer a requirement for international visitors.

All of this comes at a time when the government has identified tourism as one major sector with the potential to create much-needed jobs as well as to steady the economy.

The declaration of Zambia as a yellow fever-free zone is also significant in light of the current fear surrounding the spread of Ebola in other parts of Africa, and the subsequent negative downturn in tourism throughout much of the continent. The WHO’s acknowledgment reiterates Zambia’s commitment to dealing with possibly dangerous diseases that other African nations are still struggling with, and signals that the country is very much ‘open for business’ with regards to tourism.

Let’s hope that the international market takes note of the hard work that Zambia is doing to ensure it has a healthy tourism industry and an ever-increasing number of happy tourists. Let’s hope that 2015 is a landmark year in the ongoing growth of Zambia’s tourism.