Tourist perceptions changing: ZTA

HARARE - Zimbabwe Tourism Authority (ZTA) says there is an improvement in the perception of Zimbabwe as a tourism destination, evidenced by renewed interests in the country by international tour operators.

Givemore Chidzidzi, ZTA chief operating officer, said the country — whose image was seriously blemished by politics — was shaking off the “red flag” perception.

“I should say that by attending this year’s World Travel Market (WTM), we have seen a great improvement in the perception of Zimbabwe as a destination,” said Chidzidzi who just came back from London, where he was attending the WTM fair.

“This could be demonstrated by the fact that many tour operators have increased their coverage of Zimbabwe in their catalogues,” he said adding that interest in packaging Zimbabwe had increased.”

Zimbabwe has been struggling with negative perceptions since the year 2000 when it embarked on a controversial and chaotic land reform programme that sought to redress colonial land imbalances.

Consequently, most Western countries imposed travel warnings on Zimbabwe, resulting in significant decline in tourists’ arrivals.

However, since the inception of the inclusive government in February 2009 — when President Mugabe and long-time rival Morgan Tsvangirai joined forces to halt the decade-long economic decline — the country has gradually recovered.

The political and economic stability has seen the country being accepted back into the international community with European and American countries lifting travel warnings on the country.

“We had enquiries from some major operators from Europe who have reintroduced the classic 16-day tours of Zimbabwe covering all our main tourist centres. These include the likes of Jules Verne Voyages from the UK and Studiosus from Germany,” said Chidzidzi.

He added that ZTA will continue with its perception. - John Kachembere

“Through the recently adopted Destination Image Transformation Programme, we seek to change the perceptions in the markets while at the same time also addressing those issues back home that affect the image negatively,” he said.

Meanwhile, economists say the return of most international airlines that had deserted Zimbabwe at the beginning of the millennium, is a clear sign of confidence and a big boost for the country’s tourism sector.

“The introduction of flights to Zimbabwe by KLM Air France could not have been better timed as this went further to demonstrate the confidence in our country as a destination,” said Chidzidzi.

“Lam of Mozambique also introduced flights the week preceding WTM while Emirates increased their frequency to daily during the same period. The issue of international access is being addressed and operators met at WTM stressed the need for Zimbabwe to attend decisively to internal air services.”

The increase in the number of airlines flying into the country will also enhance connectivity at a time when the national airline, Air Zimbabwe, is crippled by various challenges that have seen it offering limited services on the domestic and regional routes. - John Kachembere

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