HARARE - South African tourists and other international visitors to Zimbabwe are preferring to rope in some tour guides from Cape Town and Johannesburg, who then sub-contract to Zimbabwean experts, it has emerged.
Zimbabwe and South Africa have close trade ties and these are strengthening in the tourism sector, with South Africa playing a key role in reviving interest in tourism destinations and resorts north of the Limpopo.
Prime destinations for South African and other international tourists in Zimbabwe, include Victoria Falls, Hwange and Gonarezhou National Parks as well as the Eastern Highlands areas of Bvumba and Nyanga.
Tourism experts and tour guides in Zimbabwe said some South African tour operators and guides are capitalising on Africa's most advanced economy's linkages with international source markets for tourism.
"Most of our visitors come from South Africa and Europe. They come with specific requirements and most of them use South African tour guides who then come and and ask us to host and guide the tourists," said Buluwezi Murambiwa, a guide at the Seldomseen sancutary in Bvumba.
Victoria Falls is Zimbabwe's top travel destination.
Wildlife, hiking, hiking, Victoria Falls, birding and canoeing are among the most preferred tourism activities in Zimbabwe.
International visitors have started to visit the country in large numbers once again. For the 2017 period, as many as 2.7 million travellers to Zimbabwe were recorded, while in the first quarter of 2018, operators say they had good occupancies and activities.
Executives in the tourism sector say Zimbabwe should embrace the linkages with South Adrica to boost tourism.
Zimbabwe has limited flights from major source markets, while South Africa has an open skies policy that has seen major international airlines link Cape Town and Johannesburg to European, Asian and American markets.
"We should not blame (South Africa) for marketing Victoria Falls better than us. We have failed to market an attraction that is (in our country). Any natural attraction is a regional attraction," Shingi Munyeza, who runs international restaurant franchises in Zimbabwe is quoted saying by local media.
South African Airways is a major operator on the Johannesburg to Harare and Johannesburg to Victoria Falls route as international travellers link to Zimbabwe.
Sophie Zirebwa, a director for research and statistics at the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority, said this week that "Zimbabwe is a long-haul destination mostly packaged with South Africa, Botswana & Namibia".
Some experts believe that Zimbabwe is losing out on potential revenue from travellers using South African guides and from operators in neighbouring countries that have packages for destinations such as the Victoria Falls.
"As long as the said countries continue to sell Vic falls as an extension of their packages we continue to get only entry fees the rainforest park and nothing on bed nights. South Africa sells it as a day trip where SAA flies in and out with guests on a day trip. A double shot for South Africa," tweeted one observe this week.