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Zimbabwe tourism on the up

Aug 28, 2010

The Zimbabwe tourism sector has raked in over US$350 million in the first half of the year and is projected to surpass the target of three million tourist arrivals before year-end.

Tourism and Hospitality Industry Permanent Secretary Dr Sylvester Maunganidze told The Herald yesterday that hotel bookings had vastly improved and surpassed Government projections.

He said most of Zimbabwe's top hotels, particularly those in Victoria Falls, were fully booked by foreigners up to mid-September.

Dr Maunganidze said indications were that the tourism sector would surpass the projected 12 percent contribution to the country's Gross Domestic Product by 2012.

"Before the end of July, the tourism sector raked in US$360 million and we are expecting to double that by year-end. Despite the vilification of Zimbabwe by the Western media, tourists know that Zimbabwe is endowed with good tourist sites and have defied all odds of travel bans by some Western countries.

"We are on the rise and probably by December we will be sitting on the same level we were in 1998 -- recording plus or minus three million tourist arrivals.

"At least two British planes are landing in Victoria Falls daily and tourists are now making Zimbabwe their destination of choice," he said.

Zimbabwe plays host to Victoria Falls, one of the Seven Wonders of the World and a World Heritage Site, over and above other sites such as the Vumba and Nyanga mountains in Manicaland, the Great Zimbabwe Monument in Masvingo and Lake Kariba.

Dr Maunganidze said apart from the traditional European visitors, the country was also receiving an influx of tourists from Brazil, Argentina and Mexico.

He said a combination of factors -- including "sterling efforts" by the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority -- had contributed to the dramatic upturn in the sector.

Dr Maunganidze said Zimbabwe had taken full advantage of being on the United Nations tourism body to market the country.

"After almost 10 years in the wilderness, Zimbabwe was readmitted in the family of international tourism and we were voted in the United Nations World Tourism Organisation executive council.

"We now have access to tourism meetings in countries that have imposed sanctions on us and we are taking advantage of that to repackage, rebrand and market the country as a safe tourism destination," he said.

The UNWTO executive council executes the body's policies and decisions through various programmes and activities.

Zimbabwe sits on the council until 2013.

Dr Maunganidze said Zimbabwe won the 2010 Regional Tourism Organisation of Southern Africa chairmanship and was maximising on that opportunity as well.

He, however, expressed concern over the behaviour of some "unscrupulous" operators in the sector who were not remitting the tourism levy to the Government.

He warned all companies that the law would descend heavily on those who breached it.

"ZTA is empowered to sue all those who evade remitting. Hotels are only agents who collect the 2 percent levy on behalf of the ZTA," he said.

There is, however, a mismatch between head counts and bank accounts, raising suspicion that some firms are under-declaring their revenues to evade paying levies.

Zimbabwe's tourism industry declined over the past decade due to negative publicity by the Western media.

This was in response to Harare's revolutionary agrarian reforms that saw nearly 300 000 black families benefiting from land previously held by just 6 000 white farmers.

This saw some Western countries issuing travel warnings to their citizens, advising them against visiting Zimbabwe.

However, concerted efforts by the Government have seen the sector rebounding.

Zimbabwe tourism on the up

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