DESPITE biting foreign currency shortages, more Zimbabweans have travelled to China over the past year than the Chinese have visited Zimbabwe, the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority has said.
The chief executive officer of the ZTA, Karikoga Kaseke, last week said since he took over as head of the country’s tourism promotion body he has discovered that Zimbabwe has now become a source market.
“What I have discovered is that there are more Zimbabweans going to China than Chinese coming here,” he said.
“When they (Zimbabweans) travel they spend as much US$6 million on tourism in other countries. We are now a source market of tourism for the Chinese.”
Kaseke made the comments during a tourism statistics workshop on Thursday last week.
The ZTA painted a gloomy situation of the tourism industry, revealing that despite the policy shift towards China and other Asian nations, this has not opened the floodgates for forex.
The ZTA said from January to June the country had received 766 986 visitors compared to 830 178 the same period in 2004. Europe contributed 60%, America 20%, Asia 13% and Oceania 7%.
The leading source countries remain the United Kingdom at 28%, the US (14%), France (8%), Benelux (Belgium, Netherlands and Luxemburg) (6%), Canada (5%), China/Hong Kong (4%) and Austria (4%).
Kaseke also questioned the source of the money locals spend in China at a time when the country’s official coffers are virtually dry.
Over the past five years, the country has also seen its share of tourist arrivals declining.
“You really wonder where that money which is used for travelling and spending is coming from,” he said.
“We however know that most of those funds have been externalised.”
On a comparative, China’s foreign currency reserves as of October of last year stood at US$540 billion.
Meanwhile, Tourism minister Francis Nhema has raised concern on the failure by the ZTA, the central bank, the Central Statistical Office and the Zimbabwe Council for Tourism to reflect tourism figures in national accounts.
“Tourism is not reflected in the national accounts, this creates problems for the sector as it is difficult to confidently say what the economic significance of tourism to the entire economy is,” Nhema said.
“It is essential that the statistical information remains unbiased. In this respect, the statistical information should give objective quantitative descriptions of the tourism sector in a manner that gains and sustains integrity and respect of the data by all stakeholders.”