Zimbabwe is a beautiful country with lush vegetation, stunning views and some pretty amazing tourist destinations. It’s a pity it has such a bad global reputation with travelers and tour operators.
After the land reform programme of 2000, Zimbabwe’s tourism industry steadily declined. But things seem to be turning around for the recovering country, and it’s largely due to neighbouring South Africa.
The Zimbabwean government is gearing up to restore its failing economy by focusing on its tourism industry. In his recent budget statement, Tendai Biti, Finance Minister, confirmed that African tourist arrivals to the country made up 89 percent of all international tourist arrivals. Europeans registered at 4 percent and the US a mere 2.8 percent. Despite the government’s adoption of the “Look East” policy to try and attract Oriental countries for business and discounted travel packages, Asia only registered at 1.8 percent.
Biti commented that the “leading source of tourist arrivals remained Africa at 89.7 percent with the highest arrivals from South Africa and Botswana”. There are some challenges that the tourism industry needs to address, however. One of the main problems tourists experience when travelling in Zimbabwe, is its backward technology. It’s an issue that the officials are aware of. Biti said, “Slower adoption of ICT banking systems and international debit and credit card facilities by most of our tourist service providers has had a downward effect of tourist flow”.
One tour operator said there was lots of space for rapid growth as long as the political situation improved. Reports of instability, violence and political unrest scare potential visitors off. The fear is worse now with the upcoming elections. “People fear that Zimbabwe is known for political violence and their countries might advise them not to travel to Zimbabwe,” commented Rodger Matangure.
But the Tourism Authority is embarking on a re-branding drive to spark a positive view of the country. This is according to the corporate communications manager, Sugar Changonda, who said he hoped that tourism would grow significantly in 2011.
He said, “We are working on ways to increase the numbers of international arrivals next year. We have a number of packages lined up that will see more European visitors coming to Zimbabwe,”
Despite the efforts to drastically improve the tourism industry of the country, if Robert Mugabe’s government involves itself in violence and unwarranted behaviour during the months leading up to next year’s election travelers will stay away, and keep their money with them. Zimbabwe is a stunning travel destination with friendly and hardworking people – the only thing that stops the country from flourishing is their controlling government. Here’s hoping that the future is a bright one for the Zimbabwean nation.