The successful hosting of the just-ended 37th edition of the Africa Travel Association (ATA) that ended on Tuesday in Victoria Falls should come as a major boost for the country ahead of the United Nations World Tourism Organisation
(UNWTO) General Assembly set for next year.
The event that brought together over 600 delegates from 30 different countries was a strong indication that the country is moving in the right direction albeit at a slow pace.
Delegates came from as far as the United States, Israel, Central African Republic, Ghana, Angola, Togo and South Africa, which is testimony that there is a market for the country’s tourism industry.
There is no doubt the conference was critical for the sector as it endorsed the country as a safe tourist destination after years of negative publicity spawned by our bad politics.
The world is increasingly focusing on sub-Saharan Africa given the problems currently facing Europe.
According to the UNWTO statistics, international tourist arrivals grew by 4,4% in 2011 to a total of 980 million, up from 939 million in 2010.
Today tourism brings over 50 million people to Africa every year.
Whilst Zimbabwe is endowed with the most splendid natural resources and tourist attractions, the country is yet to realise its full potential and benefits from tourism.
With abundant tourist attractions throughout the country, there is no reason why tourism-led growth and development should continue to elude us.
Tourism is regarded as a fast-growth industry that can contribute immensely to the eradication of poverty, achievement of the Millennium Development Goals and integration.
Hence, Zimbabwe and Africa as a whole should take full advantage of this sector in a bid to improve the livelihood of the people while at the same time marketing what is best from Africa to the world. ATA executive director Edward Bergman commended the country’s organisational abilities.
It is our belief that the visitors that came to attend the event will spread the positive images of the country upon their return to their respective countries.
The successes of hosting the congress shows that great things lie in store for this country if all stakeholders work together and share a common vision.
However, what still needs to be done is to make available adequate resources to the sector to ensure that key enablers such as water and energy are in place for the tourism sector to flourish.
The call by Zimbabwe Tourism Authority chief executive officer Karikoga Kaseke for investment in the building of new hotels should be taken seriously.
The hosting of the ATA congress was but one important step in ensuring the country gets back the millions of visitors that used to flood our resorts and by so doing new jobs are created, poverty is eradicated and ultimately we will be able to grow the national economy.