TOURIST arrivals from England to Zimbabwe are set to reach the 100 000 mark by year-end as interest in visiting the country continues to soar in the new dispensation, a tourism expert has said.
In an interview with The Sunday Mail, Zimbabwe Tourism Authority (ZTA) representative in London, Ms Felisicious Munjaidi, said tourist interest is on the surge judging by daily inquiries at the embassy and confirmed visits of mainly British nationals.
“It is very exciting to note that before the advent of the new dispensation, we would go and reach out to people but for the first time since the coming into the fold of the new dispensation, people are coming to us expressing their interest to travel to Zimbabwe,” said Ms Munjaidi.
She said the interest is coming from the general public, the Press and tour operators.
Ms Munjaidi said the tour operators were the hardest hit by challenges in the previous dispensation.
“With the new dispensation, we have now experienced an upsurge in tour operators marketing Zimbabwe as an ideal tourist destination. In 2017 our numbers were lower but in 2018, the number increased to 72 000. It’s a huge number when you compare with the previous year.
“However, when you compare with other countries like South Africa, Botswana and Zambia, you realise that we really need to work hard especially on social media- Facebook and Twitter so that by the end of 2019 we are confidant of reaching around 100 000 tourists’ arrivals in Zimbabwe,” Ms Munjaidi said.
She said given resources, there was need to coordinate tourism marketing on social media with the home office and also working with other line ministries.
Ms Munjaidi commended the National Netball Team, which was in England for the Vitality Netball World Cup, saying their presence including the attendant roadshows helped in branding Zimbabwe as a country with hospitable and vibrant people.
“It was really a celebratory time for Zimbabwe and we also managed to reach out to Zimbabweans living in England. There was palpable enthusiasm not just to visit home but also to invest in the tourism sector.”
She said Zimbabweans living in England are assisting in marketing the country. She singled out Mr Patrick Kadewere — a Zimbabwean born businessman who is a councillor of North Ward in the Hunting Town Council.
Despite limited resources, Ms Munjaidi said Zimbabwe’s Ambassador to UK and Ireland, Rtd Colonel Christian Katsande, has managed to create different sectors where Zimbabweans with different expertise gather and exchange notes on development initiatives that can uplift the country.
She said ZTA was working on a plan to partner with Rwandan Air to transport tour operators to Zimbabwe during the Sanganai/Hlanganani World Tourism Expo in September.
“We are planning to bring tour operators — both new and old to meet our industry partners as well as travel around the country and experience our product so that when they come back they will be able to sell our country to their publics.”
General tourist arrivals to Zimbabwe increased by 4 percent in the nine months to September 2018. There was a market shift of interest as international perception of the country became positive following the advent of the new dispensation.
The international engagements by the ZTA in 2018 to countries such as Spain and the Asian continent, including the Middle East, resulted in Asia emerging as the top tourism source with a 25 percent increase to 79 858 from 63 744 followed by Oceania which increased 18 percent to 32 649. Visitors from Europe increased by 11 percent to end the period at 70 440.