Source: ‘Zimbabwe unknown in China’ | The Financial Gazette October 5, 2017
CHINESE ambassador to Zimbabwe Huang Ping says the southern African country is virtually unknown in the Asian country, despite the country spending millions of dollars over the past decade marketing itself there under President Robert Mugabe’s Look East policy.
Zimbabwe adopted the Look East policy at the turn of the millennium in a bid to counter sanctions by Europe and the United States over alleged human rights abuses.
The policy is based on cooperation and expansion of bilateral and trade relations with Asian countries, and offers priority to investors from the region.
According to the policy, the thrust of cooperation with the East involves prioritising projects in which the cooperating countries have interest, and it was designed on what government described as “empowerment value”.
Although there has been a flurry of activities as business people from China seek to invest in the country, looking for lucrative deals in the power and mining sectors as well as general trade, Ping insists that Chinese people have little knowledge about Zimbabwe.
“Frankly speaking, Chinese people know very little about Zimbabwe and back in China I found that most of the online news and articles about Zimbabwe are outdated and even mistaken,” he said at a reception marking the 68th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China.
Statistics from the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority show that the country received 479 718 tourists during the first quarter of 2017, with Asia contributing only three percent.
Arrivals from the Asian market declined by four percent from 14 004 to 13 385 in 2017. The decline mainly came as a result of the poor performance of China in the first three months of the year.
“In 2016, the number of Chinese outbound tourists reached 135 million, while few are coming to Zimbabwe.”
“On the contrary, Asian arrivals into South Africa are on the increase based on the available figures for January and February 2017. South Africa has already received over 52 319 Asian arrivals and over 21 137 Chinese arrivals in the first two months,” the tourism regulator said.
Ping said it was critical for Zimbabwe to market itself in the world’s second largest economy with over 1,3 billion people in order to attract more Chinese tourists who spend over $261 billion annually.
“Going forward, more publicity needs to be done to promote the tourism resources of Zimbabwe. I am glad to know that a Chinese film named When Africa meets China was shot a few months ago in Zimbabwe and a Chinese beauty contest called Miss Universe will be held in Zimbabwe, which will attract several million Chinese people to watch on line.
“I believe that such cultural events will allow more Chinese people to know Zimbabwe and attract more tourists to here,” he said.
Taleb Rifai, secretary general of the World Tourism Organisation, said Chinese tourists are the most powerful single source of change in the tourism industry
“Not only is it the biggest domestic market in the world, where 4,4 billion trips are made each year, but it’s also the leading global outbound market, with over 135 million international departures in 2016. This number has been increasing in double digits since 2010 and it’s merely the tip of the iceberg.
“The potential of the Chinese market is far greater, because only six per cent of Chinese people own a passport. So we expect 200 million Chinese to travel abroad in just a few years’ time,” he said.
Tourism minister Walter Mzembi believes that Chinese tourists can help revive the country’s ailing economy.
“They spend much more than the average US$1 250 per trip. If those dollars find circulation in the country, they can become a good tool to fight poverty in line with the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals. We can’t forget that the world’s bottom billion survive on less than a dollar per day. So, the dollar tip that is given to a waiter or any service provider makes a huge difference,” he said.