Harare – The Zimbabwe Tourism Authority (ZTA) says mainland Africa has emerged as the largest source market for tourist arrivals into Zimbabwe due to the increased visits by those visiting relatives and friends, leisure and to do business.
According to ZTA’s 2016 First Quarter Tourism Performance Overview, arrivals from mainland Africa increased by 11 percent to 380,790 from 343,644 arrivals in 2015. Most African countries (with the exception of South Africa, Zambia, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Tanzania) recorded increases during the first three months of 2016.
Tourist arrivals from South Africa and the DRC fell marginally by two percent and four percent, respectively, while Zambia and Tanzania fell substantially by 16 percent and 20 percent, respectively.
Globally, Europe accounts for 27,000 arrivals and is the second largest source market for the country’s tourists followed by the Americas (22,000), Asia (14,004), Oceania (4,641) and Middle East 1,084.
On mainland Africa, South Africa is the greatest growing source market for tourist arrivals in Zimbabwe due to its proximity to the country and reliable road and air network between the two Southern African countries.
Statistics released by ZTA also show that 33,009 tourists visited Zimbabwe from South Africa in the period under review despite a 0.4 percent decline compared to the corresponding period in 2015.
This can be attributed to the firming United States dollar against the South African rand. South Africa is followed by Zambia, accounting for 75,447 tourist arrivals, Malawi (65,820), Mozambique (39,011), Botswana (7,886) and Tanzania (7,628).
The figures released by the authority showed that Zimbabwe registered growth in tourist arrivals from most African source markets except from the DRC, Tanzania and Zambia.
Commenting on the latest tourist arrivals data, ZTA said though there was an increase in tourist arrivals into the country, not all of them end up in hotels, many of them, especially those from Mainland Africa resort to very cheap sources of accommodation in lodges as well as friends and relatives.
“Observations have also shown that many foreign tourists visiting the Victoria Falls are entering through Kazungula (between Zimbabwe and Botswana) and Victoria Falls (between Zimbabwe and Zambia) border posts for single night stays and day trips, largely showing that they are avoiding staying in Zimbabwe,” it said.
“It means Zimbabwe is a secondary destination to them. If this phenomenon increases, it will further affect the performance of the sector as Victoria Falls is the hub of foreign tourism.”
It said implementation of robust marketing programmes by Zimbabwe in key source markets is required to lure more tourists.
“Unfortunately this is going to be very difficult as the Authority gets over 90 percent of its funding from tourism levy collected by operators whose businesses are shrinking,” the authority said.
Also with the deepening harsh economic environment in the country, ZTA said, the contribution of the domestic market is likely to decrease drastically.
In turn, this is going to further affect the ability of hotels to maintain good standards in their facilities as domestic market contributes significantly to their businesses (averagely 35 percent).
Overall tourist arrivals into Zimbabwe rose from 387,557 recorded in the first quarter of 2015 to 450,572 during the same period in 2016, representing a 1 percent growth. All source regions recorded growth except for Oceania.
Tourism experts contend that Zimbabwe can still attract more tourists into the country if it addresses issues which include numerous road blocks and high cost of tourism products.
Zimbabwe Tourism Authority Chief Executive Officer, Karikoga Kaseke, recently said that the country’s destination image was currently very low, as Harare was ranked number three by United States news channel, Cable News Network, as the least livable cities — worse than war-torn countries. The situation seems to have been further compounded by demonstration being spearheaded by opposition groups in the country in recent months.
Some of the major tourist attractions in Zimbabwe include the Hwange National Park, the Great Zimbabwe, Chinhoyi Caves, Mana Pools, Kariba Dam, the Eastern Highlands and Matopos.