VENTURES AFRICA – Tourists into Zimbabwe increased by 18 percent to 346,299 in the first quarter of this year from the same period last year, on the back of a stabilising economy and political environment.
The figures were revealed in a quarterly report by the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority (ZTA).
The increase, with tourist numbers in the same quarter in 2011 standing at 294,198, suggests Zimbabwe has made some steps in making itself a safe and more competitive destination within the region. The increase was 13 per cent higher than the projected average growth in tourists for sub-Saharan Africa, which stands at 5 percent. Though the majority of arrivals came from mainland Africa, up 19 percent from 2011, the ZTA said it expected the number of international tourists to increase as a result of new airlines flying into Zimbabwe.
The ZTA added that the results of the first quarter in both tourist numbers and accommodation utilisation suggest the second quarter and beyond will be even more positive, given that the first quarter of the year is normally a low season.
With political unrest having abated, and countries such as the United States, Japan and Germany having lifted their travel warnings, Zimbabwe is no longer the international pariah it once was with tourists. Attractions such as Victoria Falls still hold great appeal, particularly with African visitors. South Africa maintained its position as the main source market, representing 43 percent of visitors.
Yet overseas arrivals increased by 5 percent to 37,653, in spite of economic instability in these source countries. American arrivals increased 28 percent to 9,901, while Europe’s contribution increased 16 per cent to 16,829. With 46 percent of overseas arrivals, Europe is Zimbabwe’s biggest contributor of overseas tourists, followed by the Americas on 26 per cent.
This has been attributed to a change in attitude towards Zimbabwe abroad, as well as an increase in flights in and out of Harare. Chinese-owned Anjin Investments is the latest company to launch flights into the country, having applied for a commercial licence from the Civil Aviation Authority of Zimbabwe (CAAZ). Air Namibia and Fly Emirates are already operating in Zimbabwe.