A REPORT by the Zimbabwe National Statistics Agency (ZIMSTAT) has brought to the fore the impact of roadblocks on the country, with tourists alleging harassment by police at roadblocks and persecution by customs officers at points of entry. Titled Visitor Exit Survey, ZIMSTAT was commissioned to undertake the survey by the Ministry of Tourism and Hospitality.
It revealed that although the majority of the foreign tourists polled between 2015 and 2016 were generally happy to return or recommend the country, some had no kind words for Zimbabwe on account of the ill-treatment they got. Of the 38 680 foreign tourists polled, 95 percent of them gave Zimbabwe the thumbs up. But five percent of them were not happy with their stay.
Of the five percent, 43,2 percent said they had been harassed by the police at roadblocks, while 14,7 percent were harassed by customs officers at the 10 border posts included in the survey. It said 8,7 percent reported that they would not return to a country where immigration officials were rough.
While five percent appears to be a small number, tourism experts said their concerns would still have serious implications on traffic into the country. Zimbabwe ranks tourism among the major drivers of the economy along with manufacturing, agriculture and mining.
It is the first time government has commissioned a survey to gather tourist perceptions on Zimbabwe since roadblocks were intensified on major highways in 2009. Hotels and other tourism operators have been complaining bitterly over the heavy presence of police on the country's roads.
During the review period, 80 percent of arrivals into Zimbabwe were African tourists who preferred to drive and had to endure multiple roadblocks on their way to visit key attractions. Excessive policing on the roads has forced some tourists arriving by road to avoid Zimbabwean resorts.
For instance, some now prefer to drive into Botswana's Chobe National Park and Zambia, translating into substantial loss of revenue. "In order to retain reputation of Zimbabwe being a hospitable nation there is need to ensure continuous training of frontline personnel who interact with visitors creating the first and last impressions on the destination such as immigration, customs and police," ZIMSTAT said in the report.
There has been a dramatic decline in tourist arrivals in most resorts such as Binga, once a prime tourist destination, mostly due to the roadblocks. Tourism operators said government must deal with the problem now to avoid losing tourist traffic. "We don't have to beat about the bush in terms of the damage that is done by road blocks to the product," said Zimbabwe Council of Tourism chief executive officer, Paul Matamisa.
"If you are going to Bulawayo and there are 20 roadblocks you spend time stopping on 20 roadblocks. In other countries you do not see so many roadblocks on roads to tourist resorts," he said.
Zimbabwe Tourism Authority acting chief executive officer, Givemore Chidzidzi, also called upon concerned State agencies to review their conduct when dealing with tourists.
Source: Zimbabwe: Tourists Harassed (02/03/17)