Zimbabwe is on the verge of a major tourism boom, according to the nation’s Vice President General (retired) Constantino Chiwenga.
The African nation, best known in the United States for its massively popular Victoria Falls, attracted more than 2.4 million visitors last year, a 12 percent growth over the previous year. During the first quarter of 2018, the region of Victoria Falls saw a huge 48 percent increase in visitors as compared to last year.
‘’Considering that the first quarter is generally a low period, this performance raises hopes that indeed Zimbabwe is poised for an unprecedented growth in the tourism sector, riding on the prevailing goodwill and interest from different source markets,” said Chiwenga, as reported by Zimbabwe publication The Herald.
In fact, tourism is growing so rapidly, Chiwenga said that it is quickly becoming one of the four major pillars of Zimbabwe’s economy.
The tourism update came during a presentation at the Great Zimbabwe Hotel last week, at which time Chiwenga introduced three important tourism documents, including the National Tourism Master Plan, the Community-Based Tourism Enterprises Manual and the Community-Based Tourism Enterprises Handbook.
Previously the nation has not had a national tourism plan since it became independent in 1980, with most tourism efforts being guided by the 30-year Tourism Act of 1986. The new National Tourism Plan is expected to continue to stimulate a double-digit growth in tourism numbers.
‘’It is, therefore, a key pointer for both domestic and international investors into potential areas of investment in the various tourist centers throughout the country. It also provides direction for the preservation of our rich history, culture and heritage by outlining the need to develop heritage trails that depict how our heritage sites such as Great Zimbabwe are interconnected with other regional monuments such as Mapungubwe.’’
Additionally, the government has set aside a $15 million to go towards funding new tourism projects, and the vice president encouraged private sector companies to take advantage of the opportunities outlined in the Tourism Master Plan.
The nation also plans to actively work with local entities to develop regional tourism products.
While Zimbabwe was once home to more than 300 community-based tourism projects, that number currently hovers at less than 50.
While the Community-Based Enterprises Handbook was partly designed to diversify tourism products and stimulate domestic tourism, the handbook was also created with an eye to elevating Zimbabwe’s economy, with the ultimate goal of eradicating poverty by the year 2030.
‘’The launch of these policy documents should not be just a talk show but signify a paradigm shift in the way we conduct our tourism business in sync with the country’s development mantra, Zimbabwe is Open for Business,’’ said VP Chiwenga.
The shift towards a more tourism-reliant economy comes just months after Zimbabwe witnessed a peaceful political transition. In November, Zimbabwe’s president Robert Mugabe peacefully resigned after 37 years in office.
The transition, “has totally changed the image and perception of Zimbabwe from a country perceived to be at war with itself, to an exceptionally safe and peaceful country,” said the vice president.
Meanwhile, American tour operators are increasing their offerings. Earlier this year, Extraordinary Journeys introduced expert-guided conservation efforts in Zimbabwe, as well as other African nations. Similarly, Amawaterways’ 2019-20 Africa itineraries all include two-night stays at Victoria Falls. – Travel Pulse