BY MISHMA CHAKANYUKA
ZIMBABWE recorded a 3% decline in tourist arrivals to 1,115 million in the first half ended June 30, 2019 from 1,148 million arrivals recorded in the same period last year.
During the period under review, the country received most visitors from within Africa and the Middle East region.
Visitors from within Africa increased by 0,3% to 921 324 from a comparative 2018 figure of 919 023, while tourists from the Middle East region grew by 4% to 3 513 visitors from 3 364 recorded in the same period last year.
The European, American, Oceanian and Asian regions recorded a decline in tourists numbers to Zimbabwe.
Europe contributed 79 939 visitors to the total tourist arrivals, a 21% decline from 101 101 tourists recorded in the prior year.
American tourists to the southern African country nosedived 17% from 56 682 to 47 099 tourists in 2019.
Sixteen thousand two hundred and forty-four tourists from Oceania visited Zimbabwe during the period, a 7% drop from a comparative 17 511 visitors that were recorded in 2018.
Zimbabwe also saw a decline in visitors from Asia as the number of tourists was down 6% to 47 223 tourists from 50 433 visitors that were recorded last year.
The country’s tourist arrivals are expected to grow by a minimum of 10% by year end from 2,6 million arrivals recorded last year.
The tourism sector has stagnated, as tourist arrivals growth trajectory has remained steady since the first quarter of the year owing to the struggling domestic economy.
The Zimbabwe Tourism Authority is focusing on growing the tourism industry by expanding the source markets, particularly the overseas markets covering Asia, the United Kingdom and the Americas.
In 2018, the southern African nation recorded a 6% growth in international tourist arrivals to 2,567 million from the 2,4 million received in 2017.
The growth was driven by the notable increase in arrivals from all source regions and most major markets, with the exception of the Americas.
Tourism players have in the past blamed negative country perceptions as contributing to depressed tourist arrivals.
Government’s transitional stabilisation programme identified tourism as a key economic pillar contributing 15% to the gross domestic product from the current 8%.