Nkosilathi Sibanda, Business Reporter
THE call by Government to re-engage with the international community has benefited the tourism industry the most, as figures released by Africa Albida Tourism (AAT) reveal that tourist arrivals from United Kingdom have doubled.
AAT chief executive Mr Ross Kennedy said the improved ties between Zimbabwe and United Kingdom was starting to manifest in the tourism sector.
“In the last two years, the UK market has responded to many positive changes in Zimbabwe, as well as recognising and, indeed, remembering, that we have an incredible tourism destination to offer in Zimbabwe.
“The UK market was our largest source market until 2001. There is a long history, connection and bond between our two countries, but this was severely damaged by events between 2000 and 2015,” he said.
AAT’s report released last week indicates that in 2017 travellers from the UK were at 12 765.
In 2016 only 5 073 visited the country.
With this, AAT believes that is the beginning of significant volume increases.
“Tourist arrivals to Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe, increased by 11 percent in 2017, with international arrivals sharply rising, with the UK showing the most notable growth,” read the report.
After UK, visitors from the United States follow closely, recording a steady trend of arrivals with 73 803 tourists in 2017, compared to 63 502 in 2016.
Other countries in the top source markets include Germany, Australia, France, Japan, Italy, Switzerland, Canada and India.
Mr Kennedy said the new Victoria Falls International Airport has contributed to the continued increase in international tourists arrivals.
“The new Victoria Falls International Airport with its geographical hub location, plus much enhanced regional route access and connectivity has also played a part in the growth.”
The AAT report points that tourism visits to the Victoria Falls rainforest rose sharply, adding 36 percent in two years.
“Local and regional arrivals were flat, mainly caused by excessive police roadblock activity on highways, which has now ended. This masked a meaningful rise in foreign tourist visits to the Falls.
“Hotel room stays increased by 20 percent over this period, indicating a substantial increase in the use of alternative accommodation options on the Victoria Falls side of the river.
“There was a further sharp increase in visitor numbers to the Zimbabwe side of the rainforest in 2018 of 26 percent, however, foreign visitor number growth rose 28 percent vs local 15 percent. Hotel accommodation stays grew less than rainforest visits at 12,5 percent in 2018 for the first six months, again reflecting a boom in non-hotel stays on the Zimbabwe side.”
Responding to the AAT survey, Hospitality Association of Zimbabwe (HAZ) president Mr Innocent Manyera said the increase in tourists in the country should be credited to the new dispensation in Government.
He attributed the increased tourist trend to the Government’s stance on the ease of doing business across all sectors.
“We are noticing an increase in the number of visitors to most tourist destinations. All this is because of Government’s engagement with foreign investors.
“When an investor comes in, they bring an entourage of visitors as well. They come in as groups and this translates to more business for the hospitality industry.
“Visitors want to feel the change in Zimbabwe and when they get back to their home, they sell our destinations.
“Thanks to the new political dispensation. The country is definitely going up the ladder in the hospitality industry,” said Mr Manyera.