By Norma Tsopo
Self-drive tourism is expected to increase as police has cutback the number of blocks on the country’s national trunk roads, a senior hotelier has said.
In an exclusive interview with maDzimbabwe Explorer Gordon Addams said over-policing of road traffic users had been discouraging tourists to access resorts and attractions that are not accessible by air.
“There is a glimmer of hope that self-drive tourism should be an attractive prospect for tourists from Mozambique and South Africa with easier border crossing and fewer and more friendly police roadblocks,” Addams said.
Lack of domestic air travel options particularly to the eastern highlands had been forcing tourists to travel by road to access many attractions, such as Mount Inyangani, Vumba, the spectacular Mtarazi Falls, the smaller but impressive Bridal Veil Falls, Chimanimani mountains and Honde Valley as well as Hot Springs, where some villagers believe the boiling water is stirred by mermaids.
A report by Zimbabwe Tourism Authority (ZTA) also confirmed that these resorts had become unattractive to tourists who had to endure as many as 14 police checkpoints on the 263km stretch of highway between Harare and Mutare.
The decline in self-drive visitors is also affecting rural communities who depend on selling souvenir artifacts to tourists on roadsides, especially in the Vumba, Mutare and Nyanyadzi.
They have been suffering serious loss of business for years threatening even the passing down of their craftsmanship skills from one generation to the other.
Police had until the resignation of former President Robert Mugabe maintained a ubiquitous presence on the roads in spite of protestations from even then Tourism Minister Walter Mzembi who admitted that the police stops were negatively affecting the tourism sector.
“I’m actually amazed that there has been such a huge proliferation of those security checkpoints … I think there should be a breakdown because tourism is crying over the impact of security checkpoints,” Mzembi lamented at some point.
Adding the painstaking pain of navigating pothole-ridden roads to over-policing meant many tourists to the country were not returning after surviving their ordeal of Zimbabwean road travel.