Chief Operating Officer of the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority, Givemore Chidzidzi, says though it is early to draw conclusions, the country’s new leadership bodes well for tourism.

The changes come on the heels of tourism growth in 2017. “Tourist arrivals in Zimbabwe reached over 2,4m by the close of 2017. This was 12% up from the 2,1m recorded in 2016. Projecting ahead, over 2,7m are expected by the end of 2018, riding on the new dispensation and the positive image which it is ushering in for the destination,” says Chidzidzi.

On the Victoria Falls region, Chidzidzi said increased traffic was reported through various ports in 2017. The international airport recorded hikes from most European and Asian markets. Through the Victoria Falls border post, all major overseas markets in the Americas, Europe, Asia and Oceania showed double-digit growth.

According to a Visitor Exit Survey of 2015/16, 27.9% of all arrivals into Zimbabwe visit Victoria Falls. In 2017, Victoria Falls enjoyed 6% growth in room occupancies over 2016.

The relaxation of visas for target markets like China and India are also expected to stimulate traffic flow into the resort town and the country at large.  This has been supported by the recent amendments to the visa regime that has seen 29 nations being upgraded from Category C (requiring a visa before travel) to Category B (visas issued on arrival).

Chidzidzi added that Zimbabwe’s tourism industry was expected to develop in line with global trends. UNWTO projects sub-Saharan Africa to grow by 6%.

The country will also benefit from a robust National Tourism Sector Strategy currently being crafted through a consultative countrywide process.  The Ministry of Tourism and Hospitality Industry, in conjunction with ZTA, is now engaged in stakeholder meetings to gather input. This is in line with the new leadership’s position that it is a listening government.

The strategy will stretch way beyond 2018 to ensure exponential growth and is expected to unlock potential beyond traditional leisure business, bringing on board other niche markets such as MICE, sports, cultural and agro-tourism among others.

Chidzidzi says funding for tourism marketing and promotion remains a challenge and priority. But with tourism earmarked among the key sectors to revive the country’s economy (others being manufacturing, mining and agriculture), the outlook is positive.

“In fact, tourism is expected to grow dramatically over the next 12 months according to the Monetary Policy Statement 2018,” says Chidzidzi. “Taking advantage of the new dispensation, the ZTA’s aim is to re-engage the source markets with the view of regaining lost market share. Hence, the need for intensive destination marketing investment.”

Summing up Zimbabwe’s tourism priority areas, Chidzidzi listed them as:

  1. Domestic tourism promotion
  2. Market representation in source markets e.g. US, UK, Benelux, France, China, India, South Africa, Germany
  3. Digital marketing
  4. Visit Zimbabwe Campaign in strategic markets
  5. Destination visibility and awareness in source markets