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Zimbabwe wants to draw back tourists

AP  Mar 25, 2009

HARARE, Zimbabwe — Zimbabwe's coalition government urged the world to weigh changes wrought by the new administration and help attract tourists back to its world-renowned nature reserves and resorts.

Income from tourism, a key hard-currency earner, dropped sharply during years of political and economic turmoil. In travel advisories, most Western nations warned their nationals last year to avoid traveling to Zimbabwe as political violence surged surrounding disputed national elections.

President Robert Mugabe and longtime opposition leader Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai formed a unity government in February after months of political wrangling.

Vice President Joyce Mujuru, told politicians, business leaders and tourism operators at a tourism meeting at the main convention center in Harare, appealed to Western nations to lift travel warnings.

"Let us all publicly and emphatically condemn violence of whatever form and jointly celebrate achievements of the new political dispensation," she told politicians, business leaders and tourism operators.

As the new government grappled to revive the shattered economy, Mujuru said it was time for all Zimbabweans "to take serious introspection to see to it that whatever we say and do does not contribute to the negative perceptions" the country suffered abroad.

"We are here now, through our inclusive voice, asking the international community to please remove the travel warnings," she added.

The country's economic collapse saw the highest inflation in the world and chronic shortages of hard currency, food, gasoline and most basic goods. No records of tourist arrivals were available during the upheavals.

Mujuru, a Mugabe loyalist, said the country's needed more international flights, upgrading of public utilities and improvements in telephone and Internet systems that are near collapse.

She said daily power and water outages and deteriorating roads and highways deterred visitors.

"Our visitors do not need to go through the stress of failing to catch a bath in the morning or narrowly missing accidents" on the roads, most potholed and with drivers' vision obscured by uncut grass at corners and turnings. "Lest we forget, potential tourists have alternative holiday destinations," she said.

Among Zimbabwe's main tourist attractions are the Victoria Falls, a World Heritage site in northwestern Zimbabwe, and Hwange National Park, the nation's biggest nature preserve covering (5,500 square miles) (14,000 square kilometers) and the habitat of prolific elephant herds.

Tsvangirai is scheduled to close the tourism meeting on Thursday. He returned home Tuesday after spending a week recuperating in South Africa after the death of his wife in a car crash in which he was slightly injured.

His official Web site said he will not fully resume his official duties until April l.

Zimbabwe wants to draw back tourists
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