Two million tourists expected next year

HARARE - About two million international visitors are expected in Zimbabwe next year, with some spending at least a day at Victoria Falls, a top American diplomat has said.

Sharon Hudson-Dean, the US Embassy Public Affairs head, said one third of those will be Americans.

“Tourism is also a big growth sector in sub-Saharan Africa. Contributing $94,3 billion to the region’s economy in 2012, travel and tourism as a part of the region’s GDP is expected to increase by 5,1 percent over the next 10 years through much-needed economic expansion and job creation,” she said.

The top American diplomat also said when discussing Zimbabwe, most Americans equate the word “tourism” with the Victoria Falls.

“The falls, which form part of the border between Zimbabwe and Zambia, will be under the spotlight in August when the two nations host the 20th United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) General Assembly meeting,” said Hudson-Dean.

“One of the seven wonders of the natural world, a Unesco World Heritage site, and on many ‘bucket lists,’ Victoria Falls is breath-taking,” she added.

According to the US Travel Association, an average US international tourist spends $4 300 and those tourist dollars directly support 1,2 million jobs.

 If properly managed and handled with foresight, Zimbabwe’s travel and tourism can promote other key economic issues such as wildlife conservation, handicraft skills and cultural preservation.

With American tourist arrivals on the increase, US ambassadors to Zimbabwe and Zambia Bruce Wharton and Mark Storella, went on a bike ride last month to check out opportunities, and growth potential on both sides of the falls — an iconic landmark.

On the Zambian side, Miss USA 2012 Nana Meriwether also jumped on a bicycle to promote this key economic sector.

The ambassadors’ “Bike Across Borders” included stops to see Washington-funded projects such as national parks and local communities.

“One of the ambassadors’ key messages was the importance of an improved business climate to attract private investment. The (envoys) cycled through the border... learned about anti-poaching efforts, and toured the Livingstone Museum; all activities that promote education and sustainable livelihoods through tourism.”

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