A total of 479 718 tourists arrived in the country in the first quarter of 2017, a 6% increase compared to the same period last year but falling far short of the visitor arrivals of neighbouring South Africa.
According to the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority (ZTA) 2017 first quarter report availed this week, most of the tourists were from Africa with 400 290 visitors, representing 84% of the total arrivals for the quarter.
“The increase was mostly driven by the 5% rise in arrivals from mainland along with all other major markets save Asia,” ZTA noted in its report.
However, the tourism body expressed concern over the stunted growth of arrivals from South Africa.
“The stagnation in arrivals from South Africa, the country’s major market, is of major concern as the market is Zimbabwe’s major market.”
The ZTA called for serious consideration in addressing facilitation issues, especially at Beitbridge, as well as the need to urgently look at upgrading roads especially the Harare-Beitbridge highway.
Arrivals from Europe, the ZTA revealed, increased by 29% to 35 381 in the first quarter from 27 433 in the same period last year with increases in most major markets including UK (132%), France (76%) and Germany (8%).
“The increase in European arrivals is a positive development considering the fact that this region closed with an 18% decline in 2016. The European market share stood at 7% and is second only to Africa, thus Europe remains as the greatest overseas market for the country,” the tourism body observed in the report.
The ZTA warned, however, that while there has been an increase in arrivals from Europe, the country still has a long way to go in terms of attracting arrivals from this market.
“This is especially so as the country’s neighbour South Africa recorded 102 155 arrivals from UK alone in the first two months of 2017,” the ZTA revealed.
The Americas, according to the report, contributed 23 297 arrivals, 3% up from 22 620 recorded in the same period last year. However, the numbers paled in comparison to the 78 548 arrivals from the same region for South Africa in the first two months of the year.
Remarkably, Harare’s “Look East Policy” failed to translate to increased arrivals from the Asian continent.
“Arrivals from the Asian market declined by 4% from 14 004 to 13 385 in 2017. The decline mainly came as a result of the poor performance of China (43%) in the first three months of the year,” the ZTA noted.
The report showed that the arrivals from the Far East were significantly higher in South Africa which has already received over 52 319 Asian arrivals and over 21 137 Chinese arrivals in the first two months.
The national average hotel room occupancy rate increased from 36% in 2016 to 38% during the review period in 2017, the report revealed.
“Harare had the highest average room occupancy rate of 52% followed by Masvingo (49%), Bulawayo (44%) and Victoria Falls (37%),” the ZTA stated. “Despite Harare achieving the highest occupancies against other regions it recorded a 2% decline this year. This negative growth to an extent resulted from reduced utilisation of accommodation by foreign tourists.”
ZTA said the national bed occupancies experienced a significant decline of -7%.
The tourism sector has been struggling amid a prolonged economic crisis triggered by the chaotic fast-track land reform of 2000.