Fast food giant says tourism is on its way to recovery
Tourism, once one of Zimbabwe’s highest foreign currency earners which was threatening to take over from tobacco, could be on its way to recovery following almost five years in the doldrums.
Fast food giant, Innscor Africa, whose adventure company Shearwater provides various forms of entertainment including bungee -jumping to tourists especially at the Victoria Falls, says arrival numbers to Shearwater increased by 32 percent during the year ending June compared to the previous year.
“The group is hopeful that Zimbabwe will regain its status as an attractive tourism destination and will see this operation once again contributing significantly to group results,” Innscor says in its annual report.
Available statistics show that though numbers are still down, at least earnings are going up. Zimbabwe earned US$201.6 million from tourism in 1999 but this plunged to a mere US$44.1 million in 2003.
Although the number of arrivals plunged from 613 030 in 2003 to 348 946 in 2004, tourism earned US$152 million in 2004. Preliminary figures for 2005 show that 452 328 tourists came to Zimbabwe in the first quarter.
Tourism to Zimbabwe has been on the decline since the government embarked on its controversial land reform programme in 2000. The programme has just been sealed with the passing of the Constitutional Amendment Act Number 17 that bars anyone from taking the government to court when it acquires land.
The European Union and the United States slapped Zimbabwe with what they termed “smart sanctions” and also issued travel warnings discouraging their citizens from visiting Zimbabwe which hosts the Victoria Falls, one of the seven wonders of the world.
Zimbabwe has initiated extensive promotion programmes including the “Come to Victoria Falls” video which was screened in South Africa and the Miss World Tourism pageant which it hosted. It is not yet clear whether the campaign has paid off or not.