ZIMBABWE has been ranked as one of the worst travel and tourism destinations in the world, coming 115 out of 141 countries, according to the Travel and Tourism Competitiveness report released yesterday by the World Economic Forum.
The report published under the theme “Growing Through Shocks” provides a platform and a strategic benchmarking tool for business and governments to develop the travel and tourism sector.
The country is among the bottom 30 nations due to its long-standing challenges of poor infrastructure, poor health delivery system, low hygiene standards, bad business environment, poor international relations and low information technology readiness, among others.
The report features the latest iteration of the Travel and Tourism Competitiveness Index (TTCI) which measures “the set of factors and policies that enable the sustainable development of the travel and tourism sector which, in turn, contributes to the development and competitiveness of a country”.
Published biennially, the TTCI benchmarks the travel and tourism competitiveness of 141 economies. It comprises four sub-indexes, 14 pillars and 90 individual indicators, distributed among the different pillars.
The four sub-indices are enabling environment; travel and tourism policy and enabling conditions; infrastructure; natural and cultural resources.
The enabling environment index includes business environment, health and hygiene, information technology readiness, human resources and labour market, while the travel and tourism policy and enabling conditions index looks at indicators like the international openness of the country, price competitiveness, environmental sustainability and prioritisation of travel and tourism.
Infrastructure looks at air transport, ground and port structures and tourist service.
In terms of Travel and Tourism Competitiveness Index, Zimbabwe is ranked 115 out of 141 countries, the country’s business environment is ranked 138th while health and hygiene was also at the bottom at 130.
Zimbabwe stands at number 127 in the air transport infrastructure index and ranks marginally better in ground and port infrastructure at 110, with tourist service infrastructure at 112.
“Countries with low rankings should tackle their challenges to unleash the potential of the travel and tourism sector as a catalyst for development,” reads the report.
“Improving the business environment and preventing depletion of natural resources are also priorities for many countries.”
Ironically, Zimbabwe received the world best tourism destination and favourite cultural destination for 2014 from the little-known European Council on Tourism and Trade.
Even the much-hyped hosting of the United Nations World Tourism Organisation general assembly, co-hosted by Zimbabwe and Zambia in 2013, appears to have done little to improve Zimbabwe’s image.
The low ratings are also confirmation that the many costly international events organised by the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority (ZTA), where government spent millions of dollars of taxpayers’ money have failed to bring meaningful benefits to the crisis-ridden country.
The ZTA ventured into many activities, including the celebrity host programme which saw various international celebrities coming to the country to help boost the country’s image, and later acting as tourism ambassadors for Zimbabwe.
In collaboration with the late Tendai Mupfurutsa, ZTA brought in global-profile artists including Akon, Ciara and Joe Thomas, who was appointed Zimbabwe’s music ambassador in 2008.
It is now more than five years since Ambassador Thomas visited the country; little or nothing has been heard of his ambassadorial work.
Last year ZTA hosted a 10-day Harare International Carnival dubbed “Celebrating Our Diversity” with the hope that the event would bring a shift in the perception by confirming Zimbabwe is an attractive and safe destination for foreign tourists and investors.
However, analysts criticised the event as poorly marketed and organised, branding it a waste of taxpayers’ money with no return on investment at a time Treasury is cash-strapped.
Economic analysts have long argued that as long as Zimbabwe is regarded as a pariah state that is presided over by a hostile authoritarian regime, it will not attract any meaningful visitors.
The number of foreign visitors to Zimbabwe has been declining since 1999.
According to ZTA statistics from 1999 to 2013, European visitors declined by 66% from 380 113 to 128 901, while those from the Americas declined by 53% from 116 109 to 54 157 while tourists from Oceania also contracted by 65% from 65 281 to 22 689.
In 2013, the country recorded a 2% growth in tourist arrivals from 1 794 230 in 2012 to 1 832 570 in 2013.
The majority of 2013 arrivals were said to be low-spending tourists from mainland Africa numbering 1 570 799.
However, despite the increase, the arrivals are yet to reach a peak of 2,2 million tourists of 1999.