Tourist arrivals plunge 11% in 2019

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ZIMBABWE’S tourist arrivals plunged by 11% to 2,29 million last year, mainly attributable to destination image issues, Zimbabwe Tourism Authority (ZTA) acting chief executive officer Givemore Chidzidzi has said.

BY MTHANDAZO NYONI

In his presentation made during the tourism indaba held in Bulawayo on Monday, Chidzidzi said tourist arrivals in 2019 declined by 11% with all source regions, except for Middle East, recording a drop.

For instance, Africa dropped by 9% to 1,9 million, Americas 16% to 99 826, Asia by 20% to 90 358, Europe by 20% to 184 903 and Oceania by 16% to 35 637.

Middle East increased by 22% to 9 549.

“The year 2019 has been a difficult year for the tourism industry mainly attributable to destination image issues. (The drop) in arrivals was prompted by a fall in all source regions most notably in the overseas markets,” Chidzidzi said.

“What we now need to do is to address this gap that came up. So our preoccupation as the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority is now to arrest that decline, the 11% that we got in 2019, it has to quickly turn around,” he said.

Tourist arrivals in Zimbabwe started declining in 2008 due to political instability, economic recession and negative publicity.

Chidzidzi said national hotel occupancy hovered around 46% in 2019.

“The occupancies are also going down. Decline in occupancy levels was as a result of the harsh economic climate which has resulted in ever-increasing prices for the accommodation product against depleted discretionary incomes for domestic tourists who are the main consumers of hotel accommodation accounting for over 80% of hotel clientele,” he said.

Chidzidzi said tourism was a key economic sector with great potential to significantly contribute towards the turnaround of the economy.

He said destination image transformation was crucial to regain the market share and grow tourist arrivals.

“Product diversification is key to encourage tourists to spend more, to stay longer,” he said.