Source: Tourism growth projected at 20pc in 2 years | The Herald November 14, 2018
Golden Sibanda Senior Business Reporter
Zimbabwe’s tourism industry is headed for more exciting times following solid growth registered this year and projected to reach 15 and 20 percent in the next two years. The tourism industry recorded growth of 7 percent in the first nine months of the year building on similarly strong performance last year, which almost equalled record levels of the late 90s.
Zimbabwe received a total of 2,4 million tourists last year, representing 12 percent rise from the previous year, on the back of renewed confidence in the country by the global community.
The country was recently named one of the best countries in the world to visit in Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel for 2019.
Tourist arrivals started growing sometime last year, as more foreign tourists chose Zimbabwe among prime destinations amid heightened security concerns in some leading markets, including Europe.
Tourism Business Council president Tich Hwingwiri, said growth in arrival numbers registered in the past 18 months was testimony that the Zimbabwe tourism product was not overpriced.
Also dismissing the notion that Zimbabwe’s tourism products were uncompetitive Mr Hwingwiri said if that was the case the industry would not be growing nor would the outlook be as it is.
“At last week’s World Travel Market in London, our operators received their best response in two decades and the outlook for 2019 and 2020 is both promising and exciting and we can confidently anticipate growth of between 15 and 20 percent in the next two years,” he said.
Mr Hwingwiri said while much of the growth has recently been around Victoria Falls, there had also been growth in other parts of the country, signifying growth across most destinations.
He said key to further growth of Zimbabwe’s tourism industry will be the provision of greater destination accessibility through air services, which is the key determinant for such future growth.
“With two months to go, it possible to achieve 8-9 percent in terms of arrivals. And the more of those arrivals coming from the foreign market; the more forex the country is looking for.”
Mr Hwingwiri said Zimbabwe had positioned itself as a destination for the highest quality segments of international travelling public and not mass tourism market destination.
Since last year, the country has made major strides to recover from the setback it suffered due to economic collapse in the early 2000s, which were characterised by economic volatility.
“We saw this (decline) in the early 2000s and we all know that this is only in the past year and a half that we have seen a restoration of tourist arrivals to levels previously enjoyed in the boom period of 1988 to 1999,” he said.
Tourism players also want all obstacles to travel and tourism addressed, especially repatriation of funds owed to foreign airlines, which now stand at well over $136 million, since airlines are the lifeline of tourism.
“We have been engaging all relevant authorities on this matter and I would like to say that the matter is in (good) hands and we fully expect a resolution to the issue as soon as possible,” he said.
The sector was also affected by turbulent times that rocked the economy, which resulted in production input costs, especially of goods that are required to sustain operating costs of business.
This was compounded by shortage of essential commodities and other less essential commodities, but the situation has since stabilized with availability of goods drastically improving.