Macdonald Mudzaki Herald Reporter
Zimbabwe has been awarded the 2014 World Best Tourist Destination title by the European Union Council on Tourism and Trade (ECTT) for promoting eco-tourism and successfully convening the 20th session of the World Tourism Organisation General Assembly conference last year. The council named Zimbabwe as the World Best Tourist Destination for 2014 and receiver of the Favourite Cultural Destination distinction for 2014 despite tremendous logistic and economic challenges facing the country.
“The successful organisation of this world event (UNWTO conference) in spite of huge logistic and economic challenges, proves without doubt, the capacity of the Zimbabwe Government and the tourism industry’s capacity to organise world level events,” Prof Anton Caragea, president of the ECTT said in a statement.
“Following a magnificent vision and the organisation of a successful world tourism meeting, Zimbabwe has unequivocally demonstrated that it is a safe, open and perfect tourism destination.”
He hailed Zimbabwe for supporting the promotion of community-based tourism which ensured the survival of sustainable tourism, with its low ecological impact and preservation of natural biodiversity and protection of endangered species in southern Africa. “Community-based eco-tourism promoted by Minister Walter Mzembi is a perfect way of sharing revenue that supports rural communities’ prosperity through opportunities to market their foodstuffs and handicrafts to the world,” the ECTT president said.
“The way in which eco-tourism has become the base for local economic development, providing benefits to communities, makes eco-friendly tourism the lesson that the Republic of Zimbabwe is offering to the world.”
Zimbabwe also scored highly for giving tourists access to outstanding and pristine nature, the opportunity to explore nature as well as the opportunity to visit the country’s unique and extraordinary landscapes, national parks and cultural and historical monuments.
The country won praise for affording tourists a chance to visit the Great Zimbabwe Monument, which offered them a rare insight into one of the greatest pre-colonial civilisation of Africa and a rare window into centuries old traditions.
The ECTT said the preservation of cultural and natural sites of world significance such as the Great Zimbabwe Monument (added to the Unesco World Heritage Site list in 1986), Khami Ruins Monument, Matobo Hills, Mana Pools National Park, Ziwa Monuments and the Victoria Falls among others, made destination Zimbabwe “an incomparable contribution to the world legacy”.
“Zimbabwe is today a hot spot for adventure tourism, offering large areas suitable for this special kind of tourism and the necessary infrastructure to welcome the adventure seeker, its safety and peace, makes the country one of the world’s top adventure destinations,” the council noted.
“Keeping alive indigenous traditions allows tourists and visitors to be part of the Zimbabwe people’s social fabric which offers the possibility for an enriching cultural experience – are all achievements that make Zimbabwe a first class destination.”
Tourism and Hospitality Industry Minister Engineer Walter Mzembi was also appointed as an academic member of the European Tourism Academy.
The awards are by nomination and are conferred to the country that would have demonstrated significant strides in improving its tourism status.
Previous holders of the award during the last five years include the United Arab Emirates Turkey, Laos and South Korea.