TOURISM is one of the global economy’s most critical sectors. It is a money-spinning low-hanging fruit if properly developed and capitalised on. The sector’s rapid expansion has made it a key driver of economic development in both developed countries and frontier markets.
As a result, it is being used for sustainable development, including poverty alleviation in many countries. Tourism has taken centre stage both as a foreign exchange earner and an export industry.
The global travel and tourism sector grew at 3,9% to contribute a record US$8,8 trillion and 319 million jobs to the world economy in 2018. For the eighth consecutive year, this was above the growth rate of world gross domestic product. Zimbabwe is a known tourist destination in Africa and boasts a number of good attractions and favourable all-year round weather conditions. The most well-known local tourist destination is undoubtedly the Victoria Falls, where the Zambezi River plunges into a 106-metres deep gorge, which runs for 1,6km across the path of the river. There are many other tourist attractions as well.
Tourism is one of the country’s biggest foreign currency earners. It raked in US$214,9 million in 2017 and more the following year.
Authorities told us in January that figures for 2018 were expected to have surpassed the 2,7 million mark and 2019 was bound to witness serious growth in tourist arrivals projected at more than 2,8 million
However, they admitted the economic situation and inflation would negatively impact on the sector. This is where the problem is.
Government needs to fix the economic situation to ensure the country’s tourism sector realises its full potential. The current situation, especially inflation and the pricing structure, is unsustainable. Things are made worse by the country’s dilapidated infrastructure, with the Beitbridge-Masvingo-Harare pot-hole damaged highway now being a monument to decay and collapse.
Flying in and out Zimbabwe — mainly Victoria Falls — is also very expensive. Hence, Zimbabwe is proving to be a very expensive tourist destination in the region. This does not help as tourists have many other choices in the region with competitive prices.
South African travel and tourism executives this week lamented the high cost of holidaying in Zimbabwe, particularly at the Victoria Falls, saying it is one of the most expensive tourist destinations in the world.
The executives told the Zimbabwe Independent during the recent 2019 Africa Tourism Leadership Forum and Awards in Durban, South Africa, Zimbabwe should make Victoria Falls affordable for Africans to marvel at one of the world’s Seven Natural Wonders.
Globally, Spain, France, Germany, Japan and the United States are the world’s most travel-ready nations, according to the latest travel and tourism ranking of the World Economic Forum.
There is little change since the last edition was released two years ago, with only one country altering its position: Britain has slid to sixth place, behind the US.
In the case of Spain, which has claimed the top spot in the index since 2015, its popularity is bolstered by diversity of attractions, competitive pricing and world-class infrastructure. Zimbabwe must learn from this and create a tourism-friendly environment.