Tawanda Karombo Harare
ZIMBABWE’S efforts to revive the economy using foreign proceeds from the tourism industry had failed to bear fruit as tourist arrivals nearly stagnated in the first half of the year, the country’s tourism industry said yesterday.
Europe, which President Robert Mugabe has harangued in the past few years after it imposed sanctions on him and his inner circle owing to allegations of human rights abuses and electoral fraud, remained the largest contributor of overseas arrivals during the six months to June.
Zimbabwe is battling a crippling economic crisis that has continued to worsen since Mugabe won an eighth term in elections in July last year.
The government has now identified mining, tourism and agriculture as the main pillars around which efforts to revive the economy will be tied.
However, although mining and agriculture have showed shoots of recovery, the tourism industry has remained nearly stagnant, with arrivals only increasing by 1 percent compared with last year.
Arrivals into Zimbabwe, including overseas and African visitors, topped 867 163 in the first half but industry executives are expecting more arrivals during the second half of the year as the Zimbabwean spring season kicks in.
South Africa, China, Europe and the Americas have traditionally been the biggest contributors of overeas tourist arrivals to the country.
“This growth is supported by the increase in arrivals from Europe, Germany and the UK in particular,” the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority (ZTA) said in a statement.
Arrivals from Germany increased by 35 percent to 10 241, with Karikoga Kaseke, the chief executive of the ZTA, saying Europe was a market that could potentially boost the industry through increased arrivals. Those from the UK grew by 9 percent 20 812.
“Europe, [the] UK and Ireland in particular, continues to be our lucrative and high-yield market as it has been over the years. As such the authority keeps intensifying marketing initiatives to consolidate the gains,” Kaseke said.
In July Zimbabwe launched an ambitious tourism policy aimed at increasing overseas arrivals in the country and boosting revenues from the industry from $749 million (R8 billion) last year to $1.8bn by the end of next year.
The Tourism Ministry said the government would leverage on new and potential markets in the Brics (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) countries.
Walter Mzembi, the Tourism Minister, told parliamentarians yesterday that a number of initiatives had been adopted to boost the tourism industry.
He added that one such initiative was to boost township tourism, under which historical facilities in townships would be upgraded.
He said: “The enforcement of township tourism is work in progress. We are going to put a strong bid in this year’s budget” to get budgetary support for the scheme.
Meanwhile, parliamentarians haggled over the essence of Mugabe’s state visit to China last week to scout for investments and money to bail out the economy.
Finance Minister Patrick Chinamasa admitted that no cash deals had been secured from the trip as Zimbabwe’s troubled economy continues worsening.
“China does not give budgetary support. China is interested in funding infrastructure projects in our country,” Chinamasa said.