THE Hospitality Association of Zimbabwe has applauded the Ministry of Tourism and Hospitality for organising the Harare International Carnival slated from May 16 to 26.This year’s edition will run under the theme: “Celebrating our diversity”.
HAZ president Mr Tamuka Macheka said carnivals were a good way to market the country as a spectacular tourist destination. “We applaud the HIC, which is an important tool to market the country, as an ideal tourist destination and lure more visitors. Our tourism sector suffered a knock when Government embarked on the land reform programme in 2000 and we are slowly re-branding. Such events like carnivals are a noble idea to showcase what we have to offer,” said Mr Macheka.
The tourism sector in the 1990s contributed immensely to the country’s Gross Domestic Product and it was even expected to grow to become the country’s major foreign currency earner. However, following the launch of the land reform programme the sector was heavily affected by sanctions imposed on the country by Britain and United States of America together with their allies. Travel warnings were issued by the West and Zimbabwe was labelled as an unsafe tourist destination. Minister of Tourism and Hospitality Industry Engineer Walter Mzembi last week announced that tourist arrivals were expected to further improve having recorded a constant increase in the past years.
He said 1997 was Zimbabwe’s benchmark year of 27 percent (39 491 visitors) on arrivals. Last year, the country recorded 18 percent (11 333 visitors) mostly from Europe. Eng Mzembi said under the Zimbabwe Agenda for Sustainable Socio-Economic Transformation, his ministry was working towards achieving 5 billion tourism revenue by 2018.
Addressing a media briefing last week on the International Travel and Tourism Market which will take place in Netherlands this week, where Zimbabwe was invited, Eng Mzembi said they were projecting a growth to about 50 000 visitors from Europe alone by 2018 to surpass the 1997 record. Under ZimAsset the minister recently highlighted the promotion of agro-tourism and religious tourism as key drivers to boost the country’s tourism sector.
Religious tourism is big business in countries such as Israel, India, Italy, China and most parts of Asia. In Israel, religious tourism is one of the major sources of income, with a record of 3,54 million tourist arrivals in 2013 who often want to visit the holy city, Jerusalem. Mr Macheka said carnivals create hype about the country which in turn lures tourists. “During the carnival the hospitality chain will definitely benefit from the anticipated visitors. We hope the carnival will rotate in different regions each year to allow all players to benefit,” said Mr Macheka.
Ngoni Dapira Business Correspondent