Zim eyes Gulf tourism market

HARARE - Zimbabwe is a little-known tourism destination in the affluent Gulf region, and the country targets to grow arrivals from the market four-fold by 2020, Tourism minister Prisca Mupfumira has said.

The Gulf — whose member nations are among the wealthiest in the world on a per capita basis — is a key tourism source market, with six oil-rich countries — the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Oman, Kuwait and Bahrain.

Zimbabwe — host to one of the world’s seven natural wonders, the majestic Victoria Falls — is currently receiving very low arrivals of around 7 500 annually from the Middle East market, and targets to grow them to 30 000 by 2020.

Speaking at the annual Arabian Travel Market conference that kicked off on Sunday in Dubai, Mupfumira said: “Ever since we arrived…we have met quite a number of tour wholesalers, tour operators, travel agents and travel media. The universal message emanating from these meetings was that Zimbabwe is unknown in this region from a tourism point of view.”

“We understand why the situation is like this…we have not been active in this market, that is the GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council) region,” she said, adding “our absence has created room for negative perceptions to prevail”.

GCC is a political and economic union of Arab states bordering the Gulf.

Mupfumira said the country is “now ready for this market” following the military intervention which toppled long-ruling president Robert Mugabe last November, “the only leader Zimbabwe had known since independence in 1980”.

“The government…of (President) Emmerson Mnangagwa is aggressively reengaging the world to restore not only the badly damaged economy but the lost confidence and image of a once vibrant nation,” she said.

Mupfumira said Zimbabwe’s tourism sector continues to witness increased growth, as indicated by tourist arrivals and flight frequency of new airlines that land in both Harare and at the newly-refurbished Victoria Falls International Airport.

Zimbabwe received a total 2 422 930 tourist arrivals in 2017, a 12 percent increase from 2 167 686 received in previous year.

“…when we compare arrivals of December 2016 to those of 2017, there is a 48 percent increase,” Mupfumira said, adding “when we again compare tourist arrivals of the first quarter of 2017 to that of 2018 there is a 56 percent increase”.

“This upward trend is projected to continue.”

“Arrivals from this market have however, been very low compared to arrivals into South Africa (SA) which is our neighbour and also our competitor. SA last year received 55 906 tourists while Zimbabwe received only 7 537 from the Middle East market,” she said.

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