Tourist Arrivals Up 8,3%

In its Tourism Trends and Statistics report for 2011, the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority (ZTA) said tourism receipts moved to US$662 million during the period from US$634 million in 2010, although room occupancy levels remained flat at 52 percent.

However, only six percent of 2011’s visitors arrived from the high-spending European markets.

Four percent came into Zimbabwe from the American and Asia markets, where the ZTA recently said deadly tsunamis that rattled Japan’s coastal regions in 2011 forced potential tourists in the world’s third largest economy to reschedule travel plans.

“Most of these arrivals were on holiday, visiting friends and relatives (78 percent),” said the African Development Bank (AfDB) in a commentary.

The ZTA report, however, revealed a sharp slow-down in the tourism industry’s contribution to Zimbabwe’s Gross Domestic Product to 7,1percent in 2011 from 7,4 percent in 2010.

The sector’s contribution to export earnings retreated to 19,5 percent during the review period from 19,7 percent in 2010, said the report.

Tourist arrivals into Zimbabwe declined from 2000 as the country deteriorated into a prolonged turmoil that was fueled by a bolt of travel warnings in Japan, the USA, Germany and Britain among other countries in response to a political and economic crisis triggered by worsening diplomatic relations.

Following a political pact that gave birth to an inclusive governmentin 2009, the hostilities have subsided with arrival peaking to 2,2million in 2010 from 1,9 million in 2009.

ZTA chief executive officer (CEO), Karikoga Kaseke, has been bullish about prospects for the tourism industry, indicating that projections were positive, and investments into new hotels was critical if Zimbabwe was to cope with an expected influx.

“We don’t have zoos like in other countries were you are taken to a group of animals in a zoo to see wild animals. Here we have wild animals, our wildlife is unexploited and we are happy with that,” said Kaseke recently.