Nkosilathi Sibanda, Business Correspondent
THE widely marketed “Brand Zimbabwe” tourism campaign spearheaded by Government and independent players in the sector has been credited for the increase in the number of tourists from Europe and Asia over the past year.
In spite of the hard knock hiccups in the economy, evidence of results in the just released Tourism Sector Performance First Half of 2018 report by the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority (ZTA) indicate that international tourist arrivals has surged.
This comes amid international cheer as Zimbabwe was listed as the third best destination to visit by the acclaimed Lonely Planet. The comprehensive report notes that massive marketing activities are paying dividends and giving the country a positive growth outlook as more tourist source markets are opening.
Much to the delight of local tourism firms, there were 1 148 114 arrivals during the first half of 2018, up 9 percent from 1 057 244 recorded during the same period in 2017.
The ZTA reports said the Asian market rose by 59 percent, making the subcontinent the most significant source market. Asia has overtaken the United Kingdom market which had over the past half year dominated tourist activities.
“Overall arrivals to Zimbabwe increased significantly in the first half of 2018 compared with the same period last year, with Asia leading the pack with a growth rate of 59 percent, translating into 50 433 visitors in 2018 compared with 31 721 in 2017,” read the report.
“European arrivals increased by 29 percent from 78 225 visitors in 2017 to 101 101 in 2018. America grew by 10 percent, from 51 401 visitors in the first half of 2017 to 56 682 for the same period in 2018. Oceania rose by 20 percent year-on-year, with 17 511 visitors recorded in 2018 compared with 14 616 in the first half of 2017. Arrivals from the Middle East rose 34 percent, from 2 506 in 2017 to 3 364 this year. Arrivals from African countries increased by five percent, from 878 775 in the first half of 2017 compared with 919 023 for the same period in 2018.”
Hospitality Association of Zimbabwe (HAZ) president Mr Innocent Manyera expressed optimism that in the next few years the tourism sector would become the country’s major investment driver.
“These results are an indication of growth culminating from local and international campaigns. We have managed to lure tourists from all over the world. If our tourist packages and destinations are the envy of many, it means we are geared for a big change,” he said.
Holiday makers from South Korea accounted for 122 percent in arrivals followed by India at 73 percent. Chinese and Japanese nationals contributed 24 and 53 percent of tourists respectively.
ZTA noted the recent upgrading of visas in China and India made a huge impact to travellers.
In a comment on the ZTA report, leading travel and hospitality expert Gavin Rennie said tourism is headed for boom.
“This is a game-changer and the results are being seen already,” said Rennie, who is a director of Off2Africa.
“Years of marketing activities in the EU are now paying dividends. Zimbabwe is now more than ever considered a safe and politically stable country to visit, with an abundance of diverse wildlife parks and cultural attractions.”
ZTA also notes that Victoria Falls remains the most sought after destination, in particular to European visitors.
Chief Executive Officer of Africa Albida Mr Ross Kennedy said the reconstruction of the Victoria Falls International Airport brought in a new wave of development.
“The new Victoria Falls Airport, with its geographical hub location, plus much-enhanced route access and connectivity, has played a part in the growth of the destination.”