By Norma Tsopo
Political uncertainty has been hindering Zimbabwean tourism for years on end and the new administration need to resolve any political squabbling and create more peaceful conditions to make the country attractive to holidaymakers.
The current political environment is however promising to put all this behind and encourage tourists to consider the southern African country as a friendly enough destination to be explorer, says Gordon’s Select Bed and Breakfast proprietor Gordon Addams.
Addams hopes President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s administration is conscious of this and would send the right message to regional and international tourists.
“Political uncertainty has been an inhibiting actor for years. Easy travel and peaceful conditions auger well for tourism…
“We hope the new administration will take note of this and encourage tourists regionally and internationally to come,” Addams said.
The country has been a pariah state since the turn of the millennium when it embarked on a contested land reform program that was internationally portrayed as violent and steep in racial hatred making it unattractive to western tourists for which it depend on.
Former president Mugabe was widely accused of ethnic cleansing, rigging elections, terrorizing opposition, controlling media and presiding over a collapsed economy scaring away holidaymakers.
There is however renewed hope that the resignation of former president Robert Mugabe on November 18 and his replacement by President Mnangagwa would see a thaw in relations between Zimbabwe and the west as well as usher in a new political dispensation that would create the right environment for travelers.
The country is rich in tourism potential – boasting attractions such as Victoria Falls, the Great Zimbabwe monuments, the Hwange wildlife game reserve, eastern highlands and one of the best climates in the world among many others.
Its official tourism branding is point on with its enticing catch-phrase “a world of wonders” which were however being forgone for even lesser beautiful destinations because they offered more peaceful political climates.
The local tourism industry has potential of racking in $5 billion dollars annually if the right signals are sent across the globe.
Prior to 1999, the overseas market was constituting 35 percent of total arrivals, but it went down to 11 percent now stands at 14 percent.
In the first quarter of 2017, a total of 479 718 tourists arrived in the country, of which 84 percent were from the African market. Arrivals from Europe totaled 27 433.
Where the Americas, contributed 23 297 arrivals in Zimbabwe in the first half of the year, 78 548 arrivals from the same region accessed South Africa in just the first two months of the year alone.