By Norma Tsopo
Hospitality Association of Zimbabwe (HAZ) is praying for a downgrade in the risk premium of travelling to the southern African country as it eagerly anticipates a return of self-drive international tourists.
HAZ vice president Clive Chinwada told maDzimbahwe Explorer the controversial land seizures had resulted in Zimbabwe been deemed unsafe, effectively killing the self-drive tourism market.
The country’s land reform programme saw more than 3 000 white commercial farmers being dispossessed of their land, often violently, in full view of the world, painting a permanent picture of the country as a dangerous place for tourists to go.
Many key tourism source markets reacted by issuing travel warnings to their citizens.
“Every traveler needs travel insurance which was completely extinguished when the country was classified by most western governments as risky with countries like the UK warning its nationals that it was not safe to travel to Zimbabwe. This killed the self-drive tourism package.
“We are hoping that the risk premium of travelling into Zimbabwe will continue to be downgraded and allow visitors’ confidence to grow so that we revive packages like Around Zimbabwe Tours,” Chinwada said.
Around Zimbabwe Tours were primarily a self-drive package that would see visitors start their journey at Great Zimbabwe driving into Matebeleland, Mashonaland provinces and to the Eastern Highlands.
He said the poor state of the roads and incessant police blocks then effectively snuffed life out of road travel for those who were willing to take the risk.
Chinwada however expressed optimism at the return of international tourists with the current political developments which is seeing a deliberate effort to re-engage with the international community, infrastructural development as well as a clean out of the menacing police blocks.
He acknowledges though that while the destruction of the tourism industry happened in a very short time, its reconstruction, both physical and psychological in the global tourist source markets, would take many years.
The country can make some quick measures like having banks offer special services to tourists; restoring land rights to wildlife conservation specialists to empower and encourage them to restore the conservancies that have been closed since their lands were confiscated; rationalize traffic policing to focus on more pressing issues like dangerous driving; and, improve the etiquette of public officials who interact with travelers.
Dealing with the country’s air connectivity requires investing in airports across the country and would require less bureaucracy and public-private partnerships as well as resuscitating air career – Air Zimbabwe to be able to facilitate tourist access to the various tourist destinations.
To rebuild Zimbabwe’s reputation as a good tourist destination is going to take a bit of time considering that it has almost been 20 years in the doldrums and as a tourist backwater.