Zim remains unattractive: WEF

HARARE - Zimbabwe has been ranked 118 out of 140 countries in terms of attractiveness and competitiveness in travel and tourism, a study by the World Economic Forum (WEF) has revealed.

According to WEF’s Travel and Tourism 2013 survey, the southern African country moved one place up from 119 prior year.

Zimbabwe is battling to rebuild its image and shake off negative perception in key tourist source markets such as Europe and America, which raised a red flag following political unrest and economic turmoil.

On safety and security, Zimbabwe ranked 120 with high crime and violence and a lack of trust in the police to provide protection from crime.

“Safety and security is a critical factor determining the competitiveness of a country’s travel and tourism industry. Tourists are likely to be deterred from travelling to dangerous countries or regions, making it less attractive to develop the tourism and travel sector in those places,” WEF noted.

In the sub-Saharan region, WEF’s survey — described as a benchmark for tourists as to which countries roll out the welcome mat to travellers and those that give the cold shoulder — ranked Zimbabwe in 15th position with Seychelles being the first followed by Mauritius and South Africa in second and third place respectively.

However, the country was ranked 22nd for its rich natural resources, which have long drawn international travellers to the country, and a number of World Heritage natural sites, much nationally protected land area and rich fauna.

Despite these strengths, the tourism and travel competitiveness index (TTCI) mainly highlights weaknesses in other areas.

The index is based on three broad categories of variables that facilitate or drive competitiveness, which in turn are composed of 14 pillars namely policy rules and regulations, environmental sustainability, safety and security, health and hygiene, prioritisation of travel and tourism.

The pillars also include air transport infrastructure, ground transport infrastructure, tourism infrastructure, ICT infrastructure, price competitiveness in the industry, human resources, affinity for travel and tourism, natural resources and cultural resources.

WEF indicated that Zimbabwe lagged behind as a result of the policy environment which continues to the least supportive of travel and tourism industry development in the world, ranking 138th place.

“The policy environment continues to be among the least supportive of travel and tourism industry development in the world with extremely poor assessments for laws related to foreign direct investment (FDI) and property rights; furthermore, starting a business is extremely time consuming and costly,” said the report.

This comes as analysts have pointed out that the country will be ruing the missed opportunity to showcase what it offers ahead of the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (Unwto) general assembly meeting in August after failing to capitalise on the world’s leading travel fair, the International Tourism Bourse that ended last Sunday in Germany.

WEF also highlighted major concerns related to human resources with low enrolment rates in primary and secondary education by international standards, and among the worst health indicators ranking 134th in the world.

Zimbabwe was ranked 65 and 66 respectively in terms of price competitiveness and environmental sustainability.

Tourism minister Walter Mzembi says the country is projected to be the second fastest growing travel and tourism economy after China for the period 2010-2020 with an annual growth rate of 8,7 percent.

He also said Zimbabwe’s tourism sector  is expected to rake in $5 billion by 2015. - Kudzai Chawafambira

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