More good news for Zimbabwe's tourism

Sep 25, 2011

Zimbabwe scared away a lot of tourists during its lost decade of awful international publicity and sharp economic decline. Tourism may be far from back to its previous heyday but neither are they as they were at their worst. Many factors are working to restore some of Zimbabwe's old tourism glory. Apart from increasing positive indicators within Zimbabwe, tourism-related troubles such as those in next door Zambia may also help to drive more tourists back towards Zimbabwe.

The manager of a Zambian tourism lodge is reported as saying by The Post newspaper in that country that Zambia is increasingly seen as an expensive tourist destination compared to Zimbabwe.

"Zambia was booming with tourism some two to three years ago and we thought we were doing very much better than South Africa because of one reason - tourism went under in Zimbabwe because of what was happening in that country," Evaristo Mudenda was quoted as saying. "So what the tourist agents did was to increase rates.

"Zimbabwe has come back on the fore again and we are losing out. If you look at the statistics, you will notice that there is a big drop in the number of tourists that are frequenting the country right now," Mudenda said.

Zimbabwe had for a long time what was considered a more developed tourism 'package' to offer than Zambia, though in recent years the latter has done a lot of work to catch up. But one still hears from many sources that the overall value-for-money proposition is heavily in favor of Zimbabwe.

A tourism website quotes Zambia's Livingstone Tourism Association chairperson Kingsley Lilamono as saying, “Stakeholders in the tourism sector needed to work hard, as Zimbabwe poses a serious challenge to Zambia in 2011. There are increased numbers of tourists who prefer to stay in Zimbabwe than Zambia.”

Apart from the 'artificial' inflation of Zambian tourism prices in response to Zimbabwe's troubles, Zambia today also suffers from the 'misfortune' of a strongly appreciating kwacha to the US dollar. This is said to be because of strong copper export performance, as well as of increased inflows of aid money into Zambia. This has made Zambian goods and services even more expensive for someone with dollars, to Zimbabwe's further tourism advantage. Zimbabwe itself is far from a cheap holiday in US dollar terms, so Zambia must really be uncompetitive at the moment if Zimbabwe is considered a much better tourism bargain.  

Minister of Tourism Walter Mzembi said in April that Zimbabwe's tourism industry earned about 13% of the country's gross domestic product in 2010 and should grow an average 6,9% annually over the next decade.

Reuters reported separately in April that the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority had said tourism earnings jumped 47% in 2010 to $770-million while the number of visitors rose 15% to 2,3-million.

Mzembi has optimistically projected revenues of $5 billion and visitor numbers of 5 million by 2015. Maybe just likes the digit 'five' and throws it around loosely. But if Zimbabwe doesn't slide back into political conflict those numbers are not completely unattainable in three years. The country's basic tourism infrastructure remains in place, even if it is somewhat dilapidated from years of few visitors and neglect.   

 The makeup of Zimbabwe's tourists is interesting. A July 29 report said that according to the
Zimbabwe Tourism Authority, ''Zimbabwe recorded a 16% increase in tourist arrivals in the first quarter of 2011.''

''Africa contributed 88% of the arrivals to Zimbabwe followed by Europe (5%), Americas (3%) and Asia (3%). The Oceania and Middle East markets contributed 1% and 0.4% respectively. Arrivals from the African continent increased in 2011 from 226 075 in 2010 to 257 477. South Africa remained the major source market in Africa with a market share of 41% despite having fallen by 3 percentage points.''

''Overseas arrivals increased from 26 803(10% market share) in 2010 to 35 786 in 2011 (13%). Europe contributed 41% of the overseas market arrivals in 2011, Asia with the second largest overseas market share at 24%.''

Impressive numbers, even when one takes into account that most of the arrivals from South Africa are probably of Zimbabweans resident there who are visiting home in Zimbabwe for short periods. They are still technically tourists but they will not spend like foreign, strictly leisure tourists would.   

Strange that all the many people across the world who were so interested in 'the Zimbabwe Crisis' have so little interest in its gradual come back! Is it a case of good news is bad news?

The Zimbabwe Review


Post a Comment