ZIMBABWE’s tourist arrivals increased 17% to 404 282 in the first quarter of 2013, helped by the growth in regional trade and commerce through transiting business vistors.
Report by Gamma Mudarikiri
A report released by the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority (ZTA)this week showed that last year tourist arrivals plunged 26% to 1 794 230, weighed down mainly by a drop in visits from mainland Africa which fell by close to 25%.
Arrivals in the three months to April this year, however, rose to 404 282, up from 346 299 recorded in the same period the previous year.
“This growth is clearly a witness of the country’s improved destination image, resuming competitiveness in the region,” said ZTA in the report.
“The ever increasing regional trade and commerce also contributed immensely to the growth through indirect transiting tourists and business arrivals as shown by the current 40% increase in business tourists and 65% increase in shopping tourists.”
Arrivals from mainland Africa grew 12% to 346 428, up from 308 646 recorded in the same period the previous year with South Africa, Mozambique and Zambia contributing close to 70% of all arrivals from the region.
This is a recovery from a 23% drop to 1,56 million arrivals recorded last year which ZTA said was largely influenced by the fall in the number of visitors from South Africa, a major African market.
As most tourists from the country travel by road this raises concern over issues such as smooth clearance at border posts and the current poor state of the road network in Zimbabwe.
“It should also be noted that the sluggish growth of the South African economy to 2,8% from 3,1% in 2011 that is currently prevailing is to an extent an additional factor to the decline,” added ZTA.
However, Africa in the first three months of this year contributed 86% of the arrivals market share to Zimbabwe, followed by Europe of 8%, Asia 3% and Americas 3%, while Oceania and the Middle East markets remained depressed, with less than 2% of the arrivals into the country.
Overall arrivals from the overseas market in the first quarter of 2013 grew 54% to 57 854 on the backdrop of an increase in arrivals, from Europe and Asia. Europe contributed 54% of the overseas arrivals followed by Asia and America with 20% of the overseas market share, while the remainder was shared among the Middle East and Oceania.
“While all markets registered growth, arrivals from Europe and Asia experienced significant increases which have been to an extent due to the increased outbound trend, especially in China and the softening of the Eurozone crisis,” said ZTA.
Commenting on hotel occupancy, ZTA said average hotel room occupancy levels remained stagnant at 46% while average hotel bed occupancy levels rose a percentage point to 35%.
As for lodges, average room occupancy levels grew two percentage points up 44% while average bed occupancy levels were also up 5% to 35%.
ZTA however said leisure tourism was still in its infancy in the country, especially among the locals.'