Tourist arrivals are expected to have increased marginally during the first half of this year after international awareness on brand Zimbabwe, which struggled under the country’s decade-long economic crisis which ended three years ago, increased due to aggressive marketing.
Finance Minister Tendai Biti said last week Zimbabwe was “back on the international tourism map and ascending to positions of influence on the regional and global tourism landscapes”.
“This is a result of the relentless and combined efforts of government and the private sector in removing some negative perceptions on the country and improved marketing in the tourism markets,” said Biti.
“During the first half of 2012, tourist arrivals are expected to have improved by 7,5 percent, from 657 302 in 2011 to 688 288,” Biti added.
Although he did not give revenue projections for the half-year period, Biti said receipts for the full year would rise by 11 percent to US$736 million, from US$662 million in 2011.
“The majority of visitors were from the African region comprising of 89 percent, followed by high spending European markets. In terms of bed occupancy rate, there was slight improvement from 30 percent in 2011 to 31 percent in 2012,” said Biti.
He said the bulk of revenue from the sector would come from high spenders from European and American markets. The past few years have seen arrivals from the African region, whose populations is unperturbed by negative perceptions on the inclusive government, dominating the number of arrivals into the country.
The African market, which formed 78 percent of arrivals in 2011, is dominated by low spenders, or tourists who arrive for various reasons other than spending on attractions. This is the reason why room and bed occupancy rates have remained low at about 30 percent.
“Most of these (2011) arrivals were on holiday, visiting friends and relatives,” the African Development Bank said in an analysis of the Zimbabwean market.
Zimbabwe has vast natural attractions that can boost arrivals. However, natural resources alone, without marketing, infrastructure development and a stable political and economic environment will not attract high spending, risk-averse tourists.
Egypt has some of the greatest historical attractions in Africa but it has registered a retreat in arrivals since the Arab springs.
“Politics is still defining the tourism trends,” said Takunda Mugaga, head of research at advisory firm, Econometer Global Capital.
The country’s wildlife reserves, still bustling with beasts, are still failing to attract international tourists, signifying what can best be described as a tragedy, given the resources Zimbabwe is endowed with.