Tourism: An engine of economic development

ZIMBABWE is a country with enormous potential for tourism due to its rich cultural heritage, diverse wildlife, and stunning landscapes.

ZIMBABWE is a country with enormous potential for tourism due to its rich cultural heritage, diverse wildlife, and stunning landscapes.

It is endowed with a wealth of natural and cultural attractions that make it an ideal destination for tourists.

The tourism sector has the potential to significantly contribute to inclusive economic development by creating employment opportunities, generating foreign exchange earnings, and fostering the development of local communities.

However, in order to realise this potential, it is crucial to address the existing challenges and leverage the country's unique tourism assets to promote sustainable and inclusive economic growth.

This instalment explores how the tourism sector can serve as an engine of inclusive economic development in Zimbabwe.

By examining the current state of the tourism sector, identifying its potential contributions to inclusive economic growth, and proposing recommendations for sustainable development, this instalment aims to provide an encapsulated analysis of the role of tourism in fostering inclusive economic development in Zimbabwe.

State of the tourism sector in Zim

The tourism sector in Zimbabwe has faced various challenges in recent years, including political instability, economic downturns, and infrastructural deficiencies.

These factors have contributed to a decline in tourist arrivals and investment in the sector. Additionally, the Covid-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on tourism globally, further exacerbating the challenges faced by the industry in Zimbabwe.

Contributions of the tourism sector

Despite the challenges, the tourism sector in Zimbabwe has the potential to make significant contributions to inclusive economic development.

By creating employment opportunities across various skill levels, promoting the development of small and medium-sized enterprises, and generating foreign exchange earnings, the tourism sector can play a pivotal role in fostering inclusive economic growth.

Leveraging Zim's tourism assets

Zimbabwe is endowed with a rich cultural heritage, diverse wildlife, and stunning natural landscapes, all of which are key assets for the tourism sector.

By leveraging these assets through sustainable tourism practices, community engagement, and the preservation of natural and cultural resources, Zimbabwe can harness the potential of its tourism sector to drive inclusive economic development.

Policy and institutional framework

Effective policy and institutional frameworks are essential for promoting sustainable tourism development in Zimbabwe. This includes measures to improve infrastructure, enhance the business environment for tourism enterprises, and ensure the conservation of natural and cultural resources.

Additionally, stakeholder collaboration and community involvement are crucial for the successful implementation of sustainable tourism initiatives.

Promoting community involvement

Inclusive economic development in the tourism sector can be achieved through the active involvement and empowerment of local communities. Community-based tourism initiatives, capacity building programmes, and the promotion of cultural heritage can contribute to the socioeconomic development of local communities while preserving their traditions and natural environment.

Enhancing infrastructure, services

Investment in tourism infrastructure and services is essential for enhancing the competitiveness of Zimbabwe as a tourist destination.

This includes improving transportation networks, accommodation facilities, and visitor services to meet international standards and provide quality experiences for tourists.

Tourism development should mainly be about reassessing plans for validity and relevance and implementing policies that encourage development of the natural resources to benefit the indigenous people and other stakeholders that include the government, the industry itself, the communities and the visitors.

Long range planning, monitoring and constant re-evaluation is required to ensure that tourism is managed properly and the natural resources maintained in a sustainable way.

Zimbabwe as a tourist destination

First and foremost the tourism in Zimbabwe must be geared to attract locals so that they choose local destinations as destinations of choice, when they decide at household level to go on holiday.

Poor marketing of domestic tourism hinders the development of domestic tourism and yet it is the domestic tourism market that lays the foundation of the tourism industry. 

Effective marketing and promotion strategies are crucial for attracting domestic and international tourists.

By highlighting the country's unique attractions, cultural experiences, and wildlife encounters, Zimbabwe can position itself as a compelling destination for travellers seeking authentic and enriching experiences.

Below please find a few pre-requisites that ought to be in place for the effective marketing and promotion of Zimbabwe as the tourist destination in Southern Africa.

Strengthen segmented associations

When segmented local tourism associations are organised, visible and market their offerings locally and globally, local and foreign tourists know where to visit to enjoy those tourist facilities.

For example, unlike South Africa, Zimbabwe does not have a well-developed nor defined tourism product that speaks to the understanding of the different tribes and cultures in Zimbabwe.

A Zimbabwean living in the Canada recently advised that not so long ago, she had to organise a haphazard cultural tourism expedition for her friends, with her local cousins in Seke.

These people wanted to visit Zimbabwe to understand Shona customs and traditions and have palm readings and shell throwing by local traditional healers.

They were willing to spend up to US$20 000 for the visit, but because the cultural expedition, which lasted about 14 days was not well packaged, the tourists agreed to pay an amount of US$4 000.

This is a low hanging fruit that could benefit rural communities directly. But for this to happen in a meaningful and sustainable way, the expeditions ought to be packaged adequately, decent accommodation of world class standard provided, with solar and running water available, in addition to health and safety facilities being within arms’ reach.

Health, safety important

Besides the fact that health tourism is an independent arm within the broader tourism industry, it is a key imperative that where there are tourism attractions, health facilities ought to be in close proximity.

It is vital the Ministries of Tourism and Health collaborate in ensuring that health facilities of a world class standard are populated throughout the country where there are attractions for local and foreign tourists.

Direct marketing in foreign tourism

There are annual tourism fairs that take place in the United States (US) where tourism players meet to discuss global tourism trends and new product offerings in different locations throughout the world.

It is at these fairs that deals are discussed and concluded. For many a foreign tourist, by the time they land in Zimbabwe, that tourism product has been already paid for offshore. This has implications for inclusive development in Zimbabwe, revenue collection by the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority (Zimra) and access to certain tourist products by local tourists.

The Tourism ministry ought to ensure that there is transparency in how certain tourism products are accessed and paid for. In addition, for the smaller players, who might not necessarily afford to attend these marketing fairs, consideration must be made by government to subsidise a portion of the costs.

Zimbabwe tourism ambassadors

Many Zimbabweans in the diaspora have achieved global excellence and can be persuaded by the Tourism Ministry to represent and market Zimbabwe in their free time in countries in which they reside.

Perks associated with this ambassadorial position could include a diplomatic passport and a small budget coordinated through the representing Zimbabwe Embassy of that country.

Given the Zimbabwe government budgetary constraints, the appointed ambassadors could be given leeway to fundraise for their marketing activities wherever they are, as long as there is transparency and accountability in their activities.

Infrastructure development

A well-developed infrastructure not only enhances the overall tourism experience but also contributes significantly to the economic, social, and environmental aspects of a destination.

A 2023 ResearchGate study on ‘The Main Components of Tourism Infrastructure Development’ highlighted the fact that “tourism infrastructure has to be made of tourist facilities and contents that serve all tourists (local and foreign) and consists of the following: catering and productive services, development of accommodation, travel agents, tour operators and tourist information.

These induce the local economy in the development of employment, road networks and traffic connections, cultural exchanges, urbanisation and modernisation of living environments in the best way possible.

Infrastructure includes well maintained roads that are pothole free.

There is a Southern African Development Community (Sadc) meeting due to take place in Harare in August 2024 that has prompted the resurfacing of Lomagundi Road and all its subsidiaries roads, all the way to the new Parliament in Mt Hampden.

This is a welcome and refreshing development. Be that as it may, road infrastructure ought to be maintained regularly, not as a result of occasional meetings, taking place in the capital, once in a blue moon.

The maintenance of roads throughout the country is in fact a Tourism Ministry imperative which must be coordinated through the ministry that administers the roads.

An annual stakeholder Indaba

Stakeholders in tourism are individuals or organisations that have an interest in the tourism industry.

They can be directly involved in the industry, such as tourism businesses, formal and informal or government agencies, or they can be indirectly involved, such as local communities and environmental groups.

To that extent, stakeholders in tourism have different interests and priorities. As a result, it is important to understand these interests and priorities and align them for the tourism good, in order to develop and implement tourism policies and programmes that are beneficial to all stakeholders.

This list is not exhaustive by any stretch of the imagination, but is a starting point to shedding light on how tourism is an all-encompassing function, that is low hanging fruit which can be harnessed to achieve to inclusive economic growth in Zimbabwe.


In conclusion, the tourism sector in Zimbabwe has the potential to serve as an engine of inclusive economic development by creating employment opportunities, generating foreign exchange earnings, and fostering the development of local communities.

Through sustainable tourism practices, effective policy frameworks, and community involvement, Zimbabwe can leverage its tourism assets to drive inclusive economic growth and contribute to the overall socioeconomic development of the country.

  • Ndoro-Mukombachoto is a former academic and banker. She has consulted widely in strategy, entrepreneurship, and private sector development for organisations in Zimbabwe, the sub-region and overseas. As a writer and entrepreneur with interests in property, hospitality and manufacturing, she continues in strategy consulting, also sharing through her podcast @HeartfeltwithGloria. — +263 772 236 341.

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