ZIMBABWE, which has seen a surge in tourist arrivals in recent years, risks losing out on the global tourism cake due to rising costs, with sector players warning this could deter potential visitors.
BY CHIPA GONDITII
Government says it expects 2,8 million visitors this year, mostly from its traditional European source markets, but this target could be missed because of the high pricing regime which renders the country’s tourism products uncompetitive as compared to other countries in the region.
Tourism is one of the country’s biggest foreign currency earners, having raked in US$214,9 million in visitor exports in 2017. Last year’s figures are not yet available.
The situation is worsened by the unavailability of cash in the country.
According to the Visitor Exit Survey (VES) which was conducted in 2017, international tourists prefer to use cash in transactions. Zimbabwe received a total of 2 422 930 tourist arrivals in 2017, a 12% increase from 2 167 686 received in 2016 and the 2018 figures are expected to surpass those of 2017. The growth in arrivals was driven by the notable increase in arrivals from all source regions and most major markets. Of particular note is the growth in arrivals from all European, North American and Asian markets.
Zimbabwe Tourism Athority (ZTA) acting chief executive Givemore Chidzidzi told the Zimbabwe Independent that the ongoing wave of price hikes could have a negative impact on the sector.
“Zimbabwe is proving to be a very expensive country in the region, which is not good as we will end up losing tourists when they opt to go to other destinations that are reasonably priced. Price hikes will definitely affect tourism in Zimbabwe so we need to have competitive prices with our neighbours and the southern region as well as the rest of the world,” Chidzidzi said.
“It should be realised that we are in competition with other destinations and visitors will choose those destinations where they will get more value for their money,” he said.
“The figures for 2018 are expected to have surpassed the 2,7 million mark and 2019 is expected to witness a serious growth in tourist arrivals with a projected number of more than 2,8 million so this year is going to be a good year for us. Our main target is Europe having been voted as a must-visit destination by Lonely Planet, National Geographic, Vanity Fair and Frommer. We are certain that we will have an increase in the number of arrivals from Europe. The arrivals from China are on the increase and a lot of interest to visit Zimbabwe has been noted,” Chidzidzi said.
“South Africa also remains a strategic market in the region and we expect it to maintain its leading position in terms of generating traffic and the planned improvements of the border facilities at Beitbridge border post should spur traffic from our southern neighbor.”
Tourism and Business Council of Zimbabwe chief executive officer Paul Matamisa however says the country may still benefit from tourists-in-transit who are ordinarily not affected by the price hikes and cash shortages.
“Foreign visitors pay for their services in foreign curreny and are not affected by the kind of fluctuations that affect domestic tourism and we hope that the stabilisation and economic improvement will help in increasing the levels of the latter,” Matamisa.
In the 2019 national budget, Finance minister Mthuli Ncube said the government was making efforts to promote the country’s tourism products to the world.
“The Zimbabwe Tourism Authority is, therefore, working with the tourism industry in implementing programmes focussing on increasing tourist arrivals from targeted high value source markets and the improvement of tourism product offering to enhance destination competitiveness. Under the recently developed National Tourism Recovery and Growth Strategy—Vision 2025, Government seeks to regain lost market share in the traditional markets of Europe, America, Australia and Japan, penetrate new markets in Eastern Europe, China & India in Asia as well as growing the domestic market so as to enhance the contribution of tourism to the national economy,” Ncube said.
“The target is to increase tourist arrivals from the anticipated 2,7 million in 2018 to over 5,5 million by 2023 as well as growing tourism receipts from US$1 billion in 2017 to US$3,5 billion by 2023. This will be achieved through our support for aggressive marketing and rebranding of destination Zimbabwe and the 2019 Budget is allocating US$4,8 million for this purpose.”