Source: EDITORIAL COMMENT:Roadblocks undermine tourism | The Financial Gazette March 9, 2017
A government-sanctioned survey unveiled last week disclosed what may have been in the public domain for a long time: Foreign tourists are befuddled, in fact infuriated by the numerous police roadblocks on the country’s roads.
The survey came hard-on-the-heels of an article carried by this newspaper quoting Tourism and Hospitality Minister, Walter Mzembi, complaining about the impact of roadblocks to the economy in general and the industry in particular.
The Zimbabwe Agenda for Sustainable Socio-Economic Transformation, government’s current economic blueprint, clearly identified tourism as a pillar for the country’s economic revival. In fact, tourism was identified by government as a “quick-win” pillar to the economic revival strategy.
Yet we are evidently destroying the very same enterprise we expect to anchor economic revival through the senseless roadblocks that have been a huge irritant not only to foreign tourists, but to Zimbabweans who now abhor travel on roads teeming with police.
Finance and Economic Development Minister, Patrick Chinamasa, reinforced in his 2016 National Budget the need for intensive destination marketing and promotion targeted at the international as well as the domestic markets.
He also highlighted the need for sector players to develop new tourism products, which should be complemented by introduction of a new visa regime and bilateral and multi-lateral co-operation in tourism so that Zimbabwe becomes a competitive destination.
Yet it is as clear as daylight that the police roadblocks littering our roads have undermined any efforts that any stakeholder may make to increase international tourist traffic and promote tourism even among locals.
The Visitor Exit Survey, conducted by the Zimbabwe National Statistics Agency and commissioned by the Ministry of Tourism and Hospitality, undoubtedly revealed that foreign tourists have been ill treated on the country’s roads.
The report said five percent of 38 680 foreign tourists polled between 2015 and 2016 had revealed that they were not happy with their stay in Zimbabwe. Of these, 43,2 percent said they had been harassed by the Zimbabwe Republic Police at roadblocks, while 14,7 percent said they had been harassment by Zimbabwe Revenue Authority’s customs officers at the country’s border posts.
Apparently, during the review period, 80 percent of arrivals into Zimbabwe were African tourists who preferred to drive.
There is need for action to protect both foreign and local tourists from harassment of any form both on our roads and on the country’s entry and exit points.
The standard of policing that is now common on our roads, characterised, for example by armies of officers with spikes in the central business district in Harare, leaves a lot to be desired and will always be a deterrent to tourism and an attraction to bad publicity.
There is no investment required in dealing with this scourge, yet if we persist on this path, we will be forced to splurge millions trying to convince skeptical international tourists to visit our wonderful attractions.
The best marketing is referrals by those who have visited before.