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Tourism in limbo as sector declines 8%

Godfrey Marawanyika

THE country’s tourism sector continues on a downward spiral after it recorded an 8% slump in the first six months of this year, while hotels operated below break-even point.

Tourism statistics prepared by the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority (ZTA) for January to June show that the country received 766 986 visitors compared to 830 178 over the same period last year.

Last year’s figure also showed a decrease of 36% compared to the same period in 2003.

The ZTA said that over and above the 766 986 tourist arrivals, there were 298 614 people in transit, while 282 328 were day-trippers.

Of the one-day arrivals, 121 401 came through the Nyamapanda border post, while Victoria Falls recorded 62 112 visitors.

During the first six months of the year, the country recorded a total of 856 578 returning residents.

Although Zimbabwe has sour political relations with European Union member states and the United States, opting to deal with Asian countries, visitors from Europe still constitute the majority of tourists.

“Of the total overseas tourist arrivals, Europe contributed 60%, America 20%, Asia 13% and Oceania 7%,” the ZTA said in a report.

“The leading source countries remain the United Kingdom (28%), the USA (14%), France (8%), Benelux (Belgium, Netherlands and Luxemburg) (6%), Canada (5%), China/Hong Kong (4%) and Austria (4%).”

Overall, between the first half of 2004 and this year, European markets registered an increase of 21%, while Asia, which the ZTA considers an emerging market, declined by 15%, Oceania by 5% and America by 1%.

The ZTA could however not release the period’s earnings, arguing that they were still to be handed over to them by the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe.

The government has over the past three years been focusing its attention on doing business with Asian countries – China, Malaysia, Thailand and Singapore.

Despite the political shift, this has so far failed to translate into real economic gains.

The country’s Approved Destination Status given by China has not been followed by an influx of visitors.

The ZTA said hotel occupancy rates remain “even lower than the point of break-even”.

During the first half of the year, Masvingo region recorded a decline both in room and bed occupancies.

Its bed occupancies decreased from 37% in the first half of 2004 to 28% this year.

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