Masimba Gomo Correspondent
WITH international tourist arrivals growing by an unprecedented seven percent in 2017 to reach a total of 1,322 million, according to the latest UNWTO World Tourism Barometer, tourism remains the best bet for many nations, especially in developing parts of the world, to jumpstart economies.
The industry is expected to continue on the growth trajectory growing to figures not less than five percent this year.
According to UNWTO’s Tourism forecasts, international arrivals are expected to reach nearly 1.6 billion by the year 2020. Of these worldwide arrivals in 2020, 1.2 billion will be intraregional and 378 million will be long-haul travelers.
Zimbabwe’s tourism industry has been on the rebound and the sector is expected to play a critical role in the transformation of the economy, which was battered by more than a decade of sanctions imposed on the country by Britain and its allies.
However, the New Dispensation has restored confidence in former source markets. From a pariah state perceived to be in strife, Zimbabwe has in the past few months once again become a destination of choice.
According to reports from local tourism stakeholders, tourist arrivals surged to 2,4 million in 2017 from 2,1 million in 2016 while earnings from the sector rose by 12 percent during the same period to around US$1 billion.
And, players in the sector are not sitting on their laurels. Players in Zimbabwe’s tourism industry have not been left behind in the innovation game. Be it sport or religious tourism, local players are in it.
Steadily, local tourism packages are improving. Gone are the days when a package was just site seeing, game drive and boat cruises.
Fast track to October 2018 – wine in Zimbabwe has been “tourismised”, giving birth to wine tourism. Wine tourism has flourished in many parts of the world with billions of dollars realised through activities involving wine.
source, according to WinesOfBalkans.com.
According to the same source wine tourism can consist of visits to wineries, vineyards and restaurants known to offer unique vintages, as well as organised wine tours, wine festivals or other special events.
Wine producing regions around the world have found it financially beneficial to promote such tourism and Wines of South Africa (WOSA) is no exception.
WOSA hosted the first ever wine festival in Victoria Falls in a development that marks the official launch of wine tourism in Zimbabwe.
The initiative is expected to attract more tourists into the country’s prime resort town, in the process boosting the country’s tourism revenue.
WOSA Marketing Manager for Africa Matome Mbatha, said wine tourism was in the country to stay and thrive.
He said Zimbabwe and South Africa’s tourism sectors have a lot in common and if harnessed, the two countries’ industries can enjoy massive growth.
“One way or the other, South African wine and quality offering will indeed complement what Zimbabwe has to offer and Zimbabwe will be considered as high end too.
“Our tourism agenda is intertwined, it’s interwoven with Zimbabwe’s tourism agenda to grow each other’s offering, enhance the services and value add what we already have,” Mbatha said.
“If you have trained personnel,” he said, “who are knowledgeable and can sell wine to a consumer and serve it with a crocodile meal or Zimbabwean beef or take a picnic basket with a good wine that is a boom. That experience, they may not have had it in their markets, you would have given them something unique.”
WOSA is a not-for-profit industry organisation which promotes the export of all South African wine in key international markets.
Established in 1999, WOSA has more than 500 producers in its database, comprising all the major wine exporters in Southern Africa.
The wine festival held in Victoria Falls came in two parts, with the first part being the training of sommeliers and the other involved wine testing.
A sommelier or wine steward is a trained and knowledgeable wine professional, normally working in fine restaurants, who specialises in all aspects of wine and food paring.
The festival will be an annual event held in Victoria Falls, chosen for its centrality to Namibia, Zambia and Botswana as well as other target markets.
Vinimark wine company, Export Manager Evan Alexander, said it was possible for Zimbabwe to become a wine hub.
“What is important is that Zimbabwe uses properties such as hotels and build an amazing wine list with wines from South Africa and around the world and have a culture where people can tour, testing wine among other activities,” he said.
He said tourists would greatly appreciate testing wines of the world in one place.
The inaugural wine festival came to Victoria Falls against the backdrop of the third UNWTO Wine Tourism Conference held in Chisinau, Moldova in September where UNWTO secretary-general, Zurab Pololikashvili called on stakeholders to cooperate for development and growth.
“The complexity of wine tourism development and the diversity of stakeholders involved require innovative models of collaboration; we need to break down walls and promote new clusters,” said Pololikashvili.
Indeed, new walls were broken down and a new cluster was opened in Victoria Falls.
Employers Association for Tours and Safari Operators President, Clement Mukwasi said wine provides an alternative to tourists who do not consume beers or lagers.
“The wine festival was a good thing but long overdue for Victoria Falls. The availability of wine, adds value to the destination in that domestic tourists who detest lagers have no problems with taking wine, which is deemed an alcoholic beverage, some of it is not even alcoholic,” said Mukwasi.
“Furthermore the international tourists believe that wine helps in the digestive system, both red wine and white wine is taken with meals; therefore a destination without wine may not be preferred by tourists.”
Mukwasi said there was also need for investment in winery and related infrastructure in the country to make wines locally.