REVENUE in the tourism industry declined by 24% last year after potential tourists cancelled plans to travel to Zimbabwe because of the cholera outbreak and politically motivated violence which occurred during the run up to the elections in March and June, the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority (ZTA) has said.
â€œTourism receipts fell from US$365 million in 2007 to US$294 million in 2008,â€ the ZTA said in the Tourism Trends and statistics Annual Report released this week.
The report said arrivals in 2008 had declined by 22% to 1,9 million from 2,5 million in 2007.
Zimbabwe last year cancelled 17 conferences including the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (Comesa).
â€œTo an extent the global financial crisis also affected the overseas market,â€ the ZTA added.
Africa remained the biggest market for Zimbabwe in 2008, accounting for 1,7 million of the arrivals with South Africa providing 937 000.
Asia reported an 11% increase but arrivals from the European market declined by one percent at 3 400 arrivals. The Middle East had the biggest fall.
â€œThe Sadc region contributed 1,6 million arrivals into the country, down from 2,1 million arrivals in 2007. This represents a 23% decline in Sadc arrivals into Zimbabwe.
â€Other African countries contributed 48 179 arrivals in 2008 as compared to 94 578 in 2007, a 49% decline,â€ the report added.
The country faces major challenges in refurbishing airports, roads, telecommunications, hotels and other related infrastructure, as well as repairing its tainted image before arrivals can reach South Africaâ€™s levels of 11 million and attracting tourists ahead of the soccer World Cup.
The government has projected that the tourism industry could be transformed into a US$1 billion industry in five years but at the current rate of arrivals the US$1 billion can only be reached after more than a decade.
BY PAUL NYAKAZEYA