By Eben Mabunda
HOME to one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World — the majestic Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe is endowed with iconic natural resources, such as wildlife and beautiful scenery.
The Hwange National Park is the country’s largest wildlife reserve stretching for over 30 000 km² — equal in size to the European nation of Belgium. The Park is home to the world’s highest concentration of elephants.
This translates to a tourism industry that has enormous growth potential. Zimbabwe’s tourism historically contributed 7% to Zimbabwe’s gross domestic product (GDP), with the sector employing just over 5% of Zimbabwe’s population.
In 2019, tourist arrivals to Zimbabwe dropped by 11% to 2,3 million visitors. The sector’s earnings followed suit, declining 10% to US$1,25 billion.
In 2020, Zimbabwe’s Tourism Minister Nqobizitha Mangaliso Ndhlovu projected revenue losses of up to U$1 billion in the country’s tourism industry, owing to travel restrictions brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic.
The sector continued to suffer due to the Covid-19 pandemic as tourist arrivals to Zimbabwe declined by 40% to 375 799 in 2021.
Zimbabwe’s tourism sector accounted for 4,25% of the national Gross Domestic Product (GDP) with a value of US$1,03 billion in 2018. In 2019, the sector accounted for 6,3% of GDP with a value of US$1,23 billion, official records show.
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A rebound in regional and international travel is expected in the second half of the year, with a trickle-down effect on the regional and local tourism sectors.
Moreover, with 2023 being an election year for Zimbabwe, local travel is expected to soar this year, scaling up into 2023 as campaigns increase across the country. This is expected to bring relief to the local travel and tourism sectors, which had been on the receiving end of the pandemic.
Between 2015 and 2018,tourism arrivals grew by 6% per annum. In 2018, tourist arrivals to Zimbabwe hit a three-decade high, coming in at 2,6 million visitors up 329% from 600 000 in 1990.
In the same year, the sector generated U$1,39 billion in the country’s revenue. A breakdown of the aggregate figure shows that the sector generated US$1 billion worth of foreign currency, 22,7% of Zimbabwe’s US$4,4 billion forex earnings for 2018.
As the world recovers from the socio-economic effects of Covid-19 with vaccines being rolled out across the world, Zimbabwe’s five-year economic blueprint, the National Development Strategy, aims to ramp up tourism’s contribution to GDP from 1,1% in 2020 to 5% by 2025.
According to the blueprint:
“The growth of the tourism sector will be anchored on increased investment in diversified tourism products, such as, heritage tourism, medical tourism, and community-based tourism, among others.
“Key flagships will be the opening up of new tourism resorts in Kanyemba, Tugwi Mukosi, and Kariba and the development of new nodes anchored on the Victoria Falls Special Economic Zone, notably in Masuwe, Batoka, Gwayi Shangani Dam, Binga, and Sijarira.
“Furthermore, over the period, government purports to Increase investments in aviation infrastructure to open up the country to more regional trade.”
According to the most recent World Tourism Organisation’s Tourism Barometer:“Based on the latest available data, global international tourist arrivals more than doubled (+130%) in January 2022 compared to 2021 – the 18 million more visitors recorded worldwide in the first month of this year equals the total increase for the whole of 2021.
“After the unprecedented growth of 2022 and 2021, international tourism is expected to continue its gradual recovery in 2022”.
Listed firm, Rainbow Tourism Group’s digital platform, “Gateway Stream” has over 52 000 rooms across 30 African states. Its CEO Tendayi Madziwanyika is on record for having said: “We see ourselves becoming more of a tech and marketing firm with a hospitality arm in future”.
- Mabunda is an analyst and TV anchor at Equity Axis, a leading financial research firm in Zimbabwe. — [email protected]