Walter Mswazie Masvingo Correspondent
Zimbabwe is this year targeting nearly three million foreign visitors on the back of an anticipated boom in tourism, as the international community continues to warm up to the country due to the new political dispensation. Last year, the country attracted more than 2,4 million foreign tourists.
Speaking during a provincial tourism stakeholders meeting at a local hotel in Masvingo, Zimbabwe Tourism Authority chief executive Mr Karikoga Kaseke said the country had potential to attract more foreign tourists, blaming questionable approaches in the past for failure to realise the potential.
“We are looking forward to have at least 2,8 million foreign visitors by the end of 2018,” said Mr Kaseke.
He said the new political dispensation led by President Mnangagwa brought renewed vigour in various sectors of the country’s economy through the ease of doing business environment now prevailing in the country.
“We have a great potential of taking our tourism to dizzy heights if we implement the right approaches,” said Mr Kaseke.
“Had it not been for the top down approach used by some senior officials in the previous Ministry of Tourism and Hospitality Industry, we could have achieved a $5 billion economy by now.”
Mr Kaseke said previously, there was a dearth of stakeholder consultation in drawing up policies, a situation that resulted in low uptake of programmes on the ground. He said the new dispensation called for active involvement of stakeholders in policy formulation for easy buy-in.
ZTA chief operating officer Mr Givemore Chidzidzi said Zimbabwe’s tourism potential had dropped by a huge margin due to the country’s poor competitiveness.
“According to the tourism marketing strategy that we have, we should attract at least seven million tourists by 2025. We should create about 40 000 websites on tourism, increase our social media penetration by 30 percent to at least one million users.”
Mr Chidzidzi said Zimbabwe was the destination of choice for most foreign tourists, but due to skewed policies by the previous administration, the country’s foreign tourist arrivals declined.
In 2016, said Mr Chidzidzi, the country accounted for at least one million tourists from South Africa, but towards the end of the year, the figure had dropped to 700 000.
“We were unable to increase the figures or maintain them due to the wrong approach used by some officials in the previous Government,” he said. “This was also caused by our poor competitiveness on the business, health and human resources front.
“Our business index stood at 134 out of 136 countries, on safety and security we were on position 60, 128 on health and hygiene, 127 on human resources,105 on prioritisation strategy and 82 on international openness.”
Mr Chidzidzi said tourism remained a low hanging fruit and called for the strengthening of information and publicity offices across the country’s provinces as part of a massive marketing strategy to buoy Zimbabwe’s tourism fortunes.
The meeting convened by ZTA was attended by chief executives from the seven rural district councils in Masvingo and stakeholders in the tourism industry such as hoteliers and wildlife conservancy operators.