Zim tourist arrivals jump 56pc

HARARE - Our news editor Gift Phiri talks to Zimbabwe Tourism Authority CEO Karikoga Kaseke about the tourism spin-offs from the China State visit that he embarked on in a delegation led by President Emmerson Mnangagwa. Find below excerpts of the interview.

Q: An online newspaper has reported that you said President Emmerson Mnangagwa was not presidential material during a media briefing on the State visit to China. Why do you think so?

A: I never said that. I think this is a very devastating article, devastating not only in magnitude, but it’s also dangerously devastating in terms of its outlook.
This paper putting a headline that does not in any manner reflect what I said about the president’s trip to China. There is no relationship of their headline to the story. Even what I said, they were struggling to make it suit their headline.

Q: What did you say at the press conference?

A: The press conference was called by me, not only me, ZIA (Zimbabwe Investment Authority) and ZimTrade. We agreed that let’s call the press conference where we were briefing the nation on the trip to China from a business point of view because all businessmen we went with to China were part of this press conference.

So can you imagine me in front of the whole media, both social and mainstream media was there, ZBC, and all business men were there; how can I stand up and say this president you are seeing is not presidential material?

I only said the president led us to China and when he was talking, I was shocked by his articulation of business. He is like he is running Zimbabwe Private Limited.

He surpasses any chief executive of any private company that you might think of.

He mesmerised the Chinese; he mesmerised me when I heard him talking. I had not gone to any trip with him. I have not listened to him talking.

This is my first time, that’s  what I was saying. I listened to him talking and like I said, I know people will not agree with me, but I said he is a gift from God for us to have that man as our president.

So when I am saying he is a gift from God — I am there on tape — he is a gift from God, to have that man as our president. So, how then do you interpret it kuti (to say) someone is saying he is not presidential material when I am saying kuti (that) he is God-given.

Q: So how are you handling that misrepresentation of facts?

A: I have decided finally I cannot sit when I am looking at the damage that this issue has caused on me already and the potential damage it might cause not only to me and my family, but to my minister and my organisation.

I’m suing 263chat because the headline was false, misleading and malicious.

Q: Tell us about the China trip?

A: In the first meeting that we had (in China); we were having on average 15 -20 minutes talk with each of them; so 23 companies, talking to them; so I was reallymesmerized by the President’s articulation of business.

Q: What was the Chinese saying to you?

A: Some were saying why are you not visible as Zimbabwe if you are serious destination? Why are you not visible in China? What have you done for your destination to be visible in China? And they were suggesting, some suggested that we must have what they called a ‘China-Ready programme’. China-Ready is a programme where the tour operators here inbound; the hoteliers here must be trained by this company on how to be ready to receive Chinese tourists.

That is just one company. But the other companies, the tour operators who were saying no, we now want to push Zimbabwe in China, so that you can generate business from China to Zimbabwe.

And I was saying why you were not pushing this before because you gave us Approved Destination status in 2004; and they were saying the time was not right (under the Robert Mugabe regime). And I knew what they meant.

Q: Did you manage to secure any investment?

A: From an investment point of view; we met a lot of investors who are interested in investing in tourism. But the most prominent one is Touch World Holdings Pvt Ltd.
They are interested in investing in tourism. They want to come here and build a Tourism City like Sun City in South Africa.

Q: Do they have a location?

A: They said we must look for a location where they can put up a Tourism City and we are busy now looking for a location, and he is coming with 17 other billionaires.

These are not millionaires, but billionaires. So he is coming with 17 other billionaires. So we will be part of this investment.

Q: What have you done to consummate this deal?

A: We signed a MoU (Memorandum of Understanding). We arranged a preliminary meeting, and then they said they will come back towards the end of June with his colleagues, the 17 billionaires which he said he is coming here with.

Q: Let’s look at the tourism figures from November when there was change of guard at Munhumutapa. How are they looking?

A: That’s a very good question. I think I will be very accurate if I talk about December. From December last year, you know what happened in November and in December we were shocked with the jump in tourism arrivals.

We were shocked by the fact-finding missions that came here. I think you saw them in the media, a lot of tour operators, and tour wholesalers from Europe, including from the United Kingdom itself, came here in December to say we are now ready to sell Zimbabwe.

And if you look at December 2016 compared to December 2017, there was a 48 percent increase in arrivals. 48 percent increase.

But we also have the statistics for the first quarter, which is January to March this year, compared to January to March last year.

It’s shocking, over 56 percent arrivals! And we are merely saying that we are very, very excited.

Basically, what we are simply saying is that if you look at the statistics globally, the whole country, not Victoria Falls, not Harare, but the aggregate, it is a 56 percent increase.

Q: Is this translating into higher hotel occupancy as well?

A: Hotels are full. That has never happened. I don’t know when the last time we had hotels was being full in January, being full in February, because this is a low season.

It’s known that the tourism has got seasons and during the lowest season, we will be around 15 to 20 percent occupancies. And in the previous era when things were not good for us in the hospitality industry, we were running around 8 percent.

But now you can’t believe we are in January, February, March. But when you look at the outlook, going forward, say from May up to September this year, some hotels have no room; they are telling people we are full.

Q: So this is despite the argument that the prices are not competitive?

A: That is true, that is despite that argument. That argument is still valid. We also need to promote our domestic tourism.

We need our people to also enjoy the facilities, to enjoy their attractions, to also go for holidays with their families.

We still think that the prices are too high. Our people cannot afford them. But for international tourists, yes, regardless of the price, hotels are full.

Q: There were concerns that perhaps Vic Falls airport is overwhelmed with the number of visitors that it’s failing to cope with the influx of tourists...

A: It is. I think it’s a matter of (airline) slots. When you are giving the slots you cannot then have the pleasure to say the slot that you want you can’t come at that time, then don’t come.

The airport manager is in a fix. They would say I want to come at 1230pm. South Africa Airways says we want to come at 1pm.

So the slots, the space of these arrivals is so much close and most of the times there is no traffic, but towards lunch, that is when you are having a lot of traffic.
It’s unfortunate.

Q: What are you doing to manage that problem?

A: It’s going to be difficult to manage the problem. But I think what they should do they must persuade these airlines to space them. That is the only way because the capacity of that airport is 1,5 million.

We are not even reaching that figure or even half that figure. So it’s only the spacing of slots. I think they must persuade the airlines.

The airlines must also understand that they can’t all come at the same time and yet the whole day there is nothing.

Q: Do you see the tourism sector taking a knock from elections?

A: In the past yes, when it was election year we would really see a drop in tourism arrivals. That is the knock that you are talking about.

When you listen to what the president has been saying, he is committed to a free and fair election; he is committed to a credible election.

He has demonstrated beyond doubt to everybody including I think to most of the people in the media by really saying we don’t want violence. And those people from Zanu PF who have tried to do violence they have been arrested.

So there is no other demonstration that you might want from the president apart from him arresting his own people who are engaging in skirmishes that don’t make sense, people that instigate violence.

So he has declared a zero tolerance to violence during this election. There is no violence. And I hope other political parties are also stating the same to their supporters.

We expect every political party to follow the same message that the president has been giving that they must not engage in violence or any violent activity.

So if there is no violence, the election is credible, the election is free and fair, I don’t see it having an impact on the tourism arrivals.

I think the tourism arrivals will remain the same because the only thing that was causing a drop in tourism arrivals in the previous election years was the issue of violence.


 

Comments (2)

If Zim needs to move forward all Zanu remnants like Kaseke, Charambas (ZRP and the foul-mouthed we kuti I will never stay a day longer after Mugabe leaves), Mudede, etc must be vanquished titange patsva. These tired faces just remind you kuti there's no such thing as 'new' dispensation.

Moe Syslack - 22 April 2018

Where arethe so called tourists arriving from. Tourists from Mozambique and Zambia, vanorara muma hostels and seedy lodges kkkkkk - Kaseke tipewo ma serious

chamboko - 22 April 2018

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