Tourism has grown steadily in Zimbabwe over the last decade generating over US$856 million in export revenues in 2013.
Despite the economic challenges tourist arrivals have grown steadily over the last decade. In fact, tourist arrivals have grown since 1964 from 198 000 visitors to over 2,4 million today.
The tourism sector accounts for over 10% of GDP and circa 20% of export revenues. Despite this, the tourism sector operates well below it’s potential and ranks in bottom quartile of a recent study on tourism by the World Bank (World Economic Forum: The Travel and Tourism Competitiveness Report 2015).
The report does provide useful insights into key factors for government to focus on in developing a comprehensive tourism policy.
The World Bank study has developed a Travel & Tourism Competitiveness Index (TTCI). The aim of the TTCI, which covers a record 141 economies, is to provide a comprehensive strategic tool for measuring the “the set of factors and policies that enable the sustainable development of the Travel & Tourism sector, which in turn, contributes to the development and competitiveness of a country.”
By providing detailed assessments of the T&T environments of countries worldwide, the results can be used by all stakeholders to work together to improve the industry’s competitiveness in their national economies, thereby contributing to national growth and prosperity. It also allows countries to track their progress over time in the various areas measured.
Zimbabwe was ranked 115/141 countries in the world despite having some of Africa’s most amazing natural resources, including the majestic Victoria Falls and the wildlife at Hwange National Park and Mana Pools.
Very few countries in the world can boast such an array of activities for tourists. Furthermore, Zimbabwe has good infrastructure when compared to other African countries as well as a more literate population.
However, Zimbabwe does have a challenging business environment, which is where Zimbabwe scored poorly.
As I have always argued, Zimbabwe desperately needs to create a conducive business environment if it is to be successful. The tourism sector plays a vital role in the long-term development of Zimbabwe.
According to the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) 2014 report global tourism exports (money spent by international tourists) grew by 3,9% to US$1,3 trillion.
Travel and Tourism’s contribution to global GDP grew to 9,5% (US$7 trillion), and supports nearly 266 million jobs in 2013 — one in 11 of all jobs in the world.
Travel and Tourism contributes over US$30 billion (9,5% of GDP) to South Africa’s GDP, employs over 1,4 million people and generates over US$9,3 billion in revenue. Tourism contributes over US$1,1 billion (5,2% of GDP) to Zambia’s GDP and employs over 66 000 people both directly and indirectly.
Tourism generates over US$200 million in tourism revenues per annum.
Finally, I look at Canada (home to Niagara Falls) where tourism accounts over US$101 billion (4,5% of GDP), employs over 960 000 jobs and generates over US$21 billion in export revenues.
According to the report tourism contributes just over US$850 million (11,2% of GDP) to Zimbabwe’s GDP, and provided employment for just under 100 000 people. In 2013, tourism generated over US$856 million in export revenue, which is just under 20% of our total export revenue.
Tourism has tremendous potential to make a meaningful contribution to Zimbabwe’s growth and development.
Government’s target of US$5 billion in export revenue by 2020 is somewhat ambitious given current perceptions and tourism infrastructure.
Over 50% of international tourists come from Europe while China accounts for over 11% (US$128 billion) of international tourism expenditure. Between 1999 and 2013 overseas arrivals to Zimbabwe declined by over 50% from 597 010 in 1999 to 261 771 in 2013.
The economic cost of sanctions and negative perceptions of Zimbabwe are significant on the tourism sector. It is estimated that tourist arrivals to Zimbabwe could have grown to over 14 million tourists per annum based on trends to 1999.
Overseas tourists spend on average US$1 500 per day versus regional and local tourists who spend approximately US$250 per day.
So while tourist arrivals to Zimbabwe have grown over the last decade the bulk of the growth has come from the region.
It’s clearly evident that government needs to focus on changing perceptions and attracting more overseas tourists. In order to do this government needs to changing perceptions and creating a safe and attractive environment for international tourists.
The global tourism industry is huge and growing. Zimbabwe needs to capture its fair share of global tourists. We also need to work hard to change international perceptions. Government needs to develop a strategy to attract more international tourists especially from Europe and Asia.