Zimbabwe seeks to re-engage the European and Americas tourism markets as part of efforts to boost depressed tourist receipts.
This comes as President Robert Mugabe’s administration had in the early 2000s abandoned the key traditional source markets under a Look East policy, to focus on Asia.
However, Europe and the West remain the major markets for the country’s tourism industry.
In the meantime, government has intensified efforts to revive the tourism industry, targeting to contribute $5 billion to the country’s gross domestic product by 2018.
Last Friday, Zimbabwe Tourism Authority (ZTA)’s chief executive Karikoga Kaseke, said there is need to re-engage with the world’s high value markets and improve destination image if the country is grow its tourism industry.
“From 1999 to 2013 European visitors declined by 66 percent from 380 113 to 128 901, while those from the Americas declined by 53 percent from 116 109 to 54 157,” he said, adding that “at the same time, tourists from Oceania also contracted by 65 percent from 65 281 to 22 689”.
Kaseke said the negative image tag attached to Zimbabwe as a tourism brand has continued to haunt the nation considering that the period 1980 to 1999 arrivals average growth rate was 14 percent per annum.
“Had this growth been sustained, over 14 million arrivals would have been realised in year 2013,” he said.
Latest ZTA figures indicate that the country recorded a two percent growth in tourist arrivals from 1 794 230 in 2012 to 1 832 570 in 2013.
Despite the increase, the arrivals are yet to reach the peak of 2, 2 million tourists recorded in 1999.
The majority of 2013 arrivals were low-spending tourists from mainland Africa who came in at 1 570 799.
Kaseke noted that average expenditure by the African visitors is around $250 per trip based on a 2004 Visitor Exit Survey.
“Due to Zimbabwe’ geographic location, the destination is naturally a transit hub in the region. The great traffic from Africa is usually visitors who are transiting through the country to South Africa and Tanzania mainly for trade purposes.”