ZIMBABWE can potentially generate a cool $5 billion annually (about R60 billion) in tourism revenue if it can revamp its tourism infrastructure and regain its image as a prime tourism destination.
Tourism and Hospitality Industry Minister, Walter Mzembi, told potential investors in Johannesburg, South Africa at a Trade and Investment Forum that Zimbabwe had identified tourism infrastructure development as key to plans to revitalise an economy that has been on a lull for almost two decades.
Mzembi said the government has embarked on a drive to revive the sector include the ongoing upgrade to the country’s major roads.
These include the Beitbridge – Chirundu highway, that connects Zimbabwe and South Africa to countries such as the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Zambia and Malawi, making it one of the busiest border crossings on the African continent.
“We are repositioning the country, we are about to rise and shine,” said Mzembi, who is also the African President for the World Tourism Organisation (WTO).
Through the country’s Vision 2015-2020 vision, Zimbabwe aims to attract at least 5 million arrivals per year and growing the sector to contribute 15% gross domestic product (GDP).
Mzembi said Zimbabwe was currently receiving 2 million visitors generating annual revenue of $1 billion while contributing 10% of GDP. That makes it the seventh leading African tourist destination, beating out countries like Tanzania and Kenya.
He stressed the need to have an open policy on the country’s skies and borders so as to attract more tourists.
Experts have projected that the growth of low fare airlines in the country could help spur the growth of the tourism sector as connectivity improves and the cost of traveling becomes more affordable.
Already, some low-cost airlines are operating in the country, such as Fly Africa and Fastjet, while authorities have also relaxed the visa requirements for emerging-economies in a bid to increase arrivals.
Zimbabwe’s Minister of Tourism and Hospitality, Walter Mzembi. (Photo/CAJ News).
Air Zimbabwe, the national airliner, has also revived its flights to the country’s major tourism destinations.
The expansion of the Victoria Falls International Airport is also envisaged to significantly improve the airport’s handling capacity.
It includes the expansion of the existing-runway, construction of a new runway, construction of a new terminal building as well as a car park and road network.
In addition, the government, through the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority has in recent times implemented various programmes aimed at improving the country’s image on the regional, continental and international scenes.
Zimbabwe boasts several tourist attractions, mostly located in the north-west of the country.
Among these are the Victoria Falls National Park, Hwange National Park, Eastern Highlands, Vumba Mountains and the Nyanga National Park as well as the World’s View in Matopos.
Other sites include the Great Zimbabwe Ruins, Khami Ruins, Matobo Hills and Mana Pools, all United Nations Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) heritage sites.
However, arrivals at these sites have significantly reduced over the years as the tourism sector was not spared the economic problems that have characterised the country over the past two decades.
There has been hope in recent months the industry can be revived as relations between Zimbabwe and its foes of the past two decades have improved.
In 2013, Zimbabwe enhanced its profile by co-hosting the 20th United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) General Assembly alongside neighbouring Zambia, hosted at Victoria Falls.