THE tourism sector in Zimbabwe is expected to grow by more than 20% in 2018, with tourist arrivals surpassing 2,5 million due to renewed confidence in the destination triggered by the recent change of government, an executive has said.
BY MTHANDAZO NYONI
Zimbabwe Tourism Authority chief executive, Karikoga Kaseke, told NewsDay in emailed responses that the outlook for 2018 was exciting following the ushering in of the new administration led by President Emmerson Mnangagwa in November.
He said as follow-on effects of Operation Restore Legacy and the vision outlined by Mnangagwa, the tourism sector was expected to grow by more than 20% in 2018, thereby surpassing the annual global tourism growth and the regional growth forecast of 4 to 5% and 5,5%, respectively.
In turn, Kaseke said tourist arrivals in Zimbabwe were estimated to reach over 2,5 million by the end of the year.
In the first nine months of 2017, the country received 1 726 247 in arrivals, 12% up from 1 538 905 received during the same period in 2016.
In 2016, arrivals were 2 167 686, 5% up from 2 056 588 received in 2015.
Kaseke said Zimbabwe is expected to ride on positive trend of an increase in tourism arrivals in Africa which is projected to grow at an average rate of 5,5% per annum for the next decade, according to the United Nations World Tourism Organisation.
He said the $150 million facelift of the Victoria Falls International Airport would also contribute significantly to the growth of the sector.
“This development is expected to usher in a new era of the country’s tourism growth. Victoria Falls is now the emerging regional aviation hub, connected to major regional capitals such as Johannesburg, Pretoria, Lusaka, Luanda, Windhoek, Gaborone and Maputo,” Kaseke said.
This, he said, would see Victoria Falls becoming the main tourist hub for the Sadc region due to its central location.
Kaseke said after nearly two decades of negative publicity, Zimbabwe “is slowly recovering from the negative image as seen by the removal of travel warnings against the country by several countries including the United States, Japan and Germany last month.”
In his 2018 National Budget statement, Finance and Economic Development minister Patrick Chinamasa said the thrust this year would be on strengthening destination marketing, paying special attention to high spending markets to increase tourism receipts.
He said the Budget would increase allocation for the sector, so as to enhance marketing of the country as a preferred destination for tourism, as well as support the promotion of domestic tourism with a bias towards improving community based tourism enterprises to empower local communities.