One economic which has recently been experiencing increased growth is tourism.
Column by Eric Bloch
Zimbabwe is remarkably endowed with a magnitude of varied and extremely extraordinary tourism resources and attractions. Some of these are the resplendent Victoria Falls, some of the stunning game reserves in Africa (notwithstanding the recent horrendous recourse by some Zimbabweans to elephant poaching), the stupendous Matobo Hills, the mystical Great Zimbabwe, Khami Ruins, and other ruins, the considerable beauty of Chimanimani, Bvumba and Nyanga, the spectacular Mana Pools, the grandeur of Lake Kariba and the ubiquitous spectacular Zimbabwean sunset.
In addition, there are also many tourism magnets in the cities, including Bulawayo’s National Natural History Museum (renowned as the best in the world), the National Gallery of Zimbabwe, in both Harare and Bulawayo, the War Museum in Gweru, tribal dancing and other diverse cultural venues and activities.
Enhancing the prospects for Zimbabwe to further benefit from its abundance in tourism resources, international tourism is now progressively increasing, after a very considerable decline since 2008 when there was great economic recession in the majority of the world’s leading economies. Also key to Zimbabwe’s successfully growing its tourist patronage is the fairly substantial tourism resource infrastructure that already exists.
There are numerous, international-standard hotels at Victoria Falls, in all the major cities, in resorts such as Nyanga, Bvumba, Kariba and elsewhere.
Reinforcing that infrastructure are hundreds of guest lodges, bed and breakfast facilities, caravan parks and camping sites in almost all areas of the country, most of which are of high repute.
In addition, the Zimbabwean tourism industry provides diverse activities for tourists to enjoy, including wildlife safaris, game drives as well as cruises on the Zambezi River and Lake Kariba. There are casinos at Victoria Falls, Kariba, Bulawayo, Harare and Kadoma.
There are also diverse cultural events and much else. With all these attributes, Zimbabwe can well become one of the world’s most desired and patronised tourist destinations in the world, eclipsing the Niagra Falls. It can also compete favourably with many of the world’s destinations, including London, Paris, Switzerland, Monte Carlo, Rome and many others.
However, to achieve a far greater extent of the already increasing tourist patronage, there is much that Zimbabwe must do, in both the public and private sectors, including:
First and foremost, intending tourists need major assurance of security.
While much has been achieved, much more is needed. In pursuit thereof, Zimbabwe needs to vigorously strive for improved international relations in general, and with the US, United Kingdom, European Union and Australia, in particular.
At the same time, farm invasions must be halted, for the international community is well aware that many of such invasions have been associated with pronounced violence and are therefore fearful that such violence would be emulated and applied by those wishing to dispossess the tourists of their monies, mobile telephones, cameras, and much else.
Ensuring reliability of flights to and from Zimbabwe, and internally. A tourist does not wish to arrive in Zimbabwe (usually in one of the country’s two most major tourism gateways, being Harare and Bulawayo) and then be confronted by major delays or cancellations in air, rail or other transportation means to their tourism destinations.
Similarly, fears have to be eliminated that upon the conclusion of their visit to Zimbabwe they will not be stranded by flight cancellations, or lengthy delays in their departure flights to their home countries.
Interlinked with the need to address security concerns, and arrival and departure delays, the tourism sector would significantly benefit if the arrival and departure procedures at tourist arrival ports would be substantially simplified and expedited.
In part this could be achieved if at those entry points which border neighbouring countries, the modern international development of “one-stop” border posts would be pursued.
Concurrently, there should be clearly designated alternative routings and processing points for individuals on one hand and commercial arrivals on the other.
Very importantly, government must intensify its efforts to contain corruption at border posts, primarily demands for bribes. Visitors also need to be assured they are not endlessly confronted and pestered by touts.
It is vital that the Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) vigorously ensure motorists’ compliance with the country’s traffic, and other laws.
However, tourists’ goodwill is alienated when they are stopped not only at speed traps, but also by innumerable ZRP road blocks where police insist on seeing drivers’ licences, red triangles, safety vests, and the like.
There are many instances when tourists motoring from Beitbridge to Victoria Falls, via Bulawayo, are pulled-over at as many as 12 roadblocks, all making identical demands.
A quick, easy solution, without jeopardising the need to ensure traffic law compliance, would be for the police first encountered to issue to the motorist a clearance certificate valid for the entirety of that day. Concurrently, the ZRP senior authorities need to curb the reportedly very frequent demands by roadblock personnel for bribes.
Zimbabwe needs significant upgrading of its Internet, and its telephonic networks to the region and internationally, for tourists need to have reliable and urgent access to their families abroad. There must be assured constant and uninterrupted availability of essential utilities and allied services.
While the above is not all-embracing, addressing those (and allied issues) would greatly assure an ongoing, considerable growth in tourist patronage, and hence would be a major contributant to the Zimbabwean economy.