Martin Kadzere Senior Business Reporter
Zimbabwe’s lucrative safari industry witnessed its best performance since independence in 1980, buoyed by growing interest from traditional markets responding positively to President Mnangagwa’s Zimbabwe is open for business mantra. Mr Emmanuel Fundira, the president of Safari Operators Association of Zimbabwe, yesterday said that positive sentiments from the Government prior to last year’s July elections saw the country receiving more international visitors.
“Last year was a very good season . . . I would say the best since independence,” Mr Fundira said. “We were actually helped by the positive sentiments from the Government prior to the elections. We had no restrictions in terms of media coverage of the elections while invitations to observe the polls were extended to all.
“This was good for the industry and we had more visitors staying longer than previous years.”
While the revenues generated from safari activities are yet to be finalised, Mr Fundira estimates the country could have earned at least $150 million.
“Daily earnings were much higher than the previous year because our visitors stayed longer,” Mr Fundira said.
Safari visitors mainly come from the United States and Europe, according to Mr Fundira.
The safari industry is categorised into two — the hunting safaris, which is consumptive, and non-consumptive safaris, which are photographic, bird viewing, game drive and cultural tourism. Both safari sectors have interest mainly in animals.
Mr Fundira said the industry’s outlook remained bright as the country was looking for more visitors this year.
“The interest is unbelievable,” said Mr Fundira, who was recently in the US marketing the industry.
“We expect the numbers to remain strong.”
Mr Fundira said local safari operators would lobby the Government to introduce satellite accounting for proper data capturing of the revenue generated by the industry.
Last year, Zimbabwe’s tourism sector earned the country $1 billion in foreign currency earnings, up from the $967 million realised in 2017, according to Environment, Tourism and Hospitality Industry Minister Prisca Mupfumira.
Arrivals hit 2,7 million, the highest in nearly two decades, the minister told our sister publication recently.
“In 2018, we have been targeting $1 billion in revenue and I am happy to say that we have surpassed that target,” she said. “On arrivals, we have reached 2,7 million . . . We are confident that (2019) will be even better if we do our things properly. I don’t see any reason why we cannot double those figures. For that to happen, we need enablers; that’s the major issue,” said Minister Mupfumira.