HARARE: Chinese tourists into Zimbabwe rose by 32 percent in the first half of 2016 after the country relaxed visa controls, a senior government official has said.
Zimbabwe introduced a new visa regime in March this year which now allows nationals from China and 35 other countries to apply for visa on arrival.
Previously, Chinese nationals needed to apply for and obtain visas prior to travelling.
Deputy Chief Secretary in the Office of the President and Cabinet Ray Ndhlukula told a tourism conference last week in Harare that the surge in Chinese tourists was due to the relaxation in visa controls.
He said according to the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority preliminary report up to June 2016, Zimbabwe received 902,435 tourists compared to 930,277 in 2015.
"Although this figure represents a marginal decline in arrivals, what is noteworthy is the increase in Chinese tourists by 32 percent, which in itself is an affirmation of the positive steps taken to revise the visa regime," he said.
Zimbabwe, he said, would thus continue to review the legislative and regulatory environment affecting the tourism sector to boost its growth and competitiveness.
Currently contributing 1 billion U.S. dollars in revenue and 11 percent to Gross Domestic Product from 2 million visitors annually, the government is targeting the sector to contribute 5 billion dollars in revenue and 15 percent to GDP from 5 million tourist arrivals a year by 2020.
Ndhlukula noted that overpriced tourism products and poor transport infrastructure were among major factors stifling growth of the sector.
He urged tourism players in the country to competitively price their products in order to restore the competitiveness of Zimbabwe as a prime tourist destination.
Zimbabwe boasts of an array of tourist attractions, including the famous Victoria Falls.
Source: Chinese tourists surge after Zimbabwe relaxes visa controls (03/09/16)