Tourism sector sings the blues

HARARE - Zimbabwe's troubled tourism sector continued to sing the blues last year with arrivals from Europe and the United States declining by a massive by 21 percent as tourists continued to shun the country.

In a provisional report due for release this week, the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority (ZTA) said there had been a huge decline in tourist arrivals from the two traditional source markets because of the country’s negative image.

The report titled, “Visitor Arrivals by Source Market – 2007,” said tourist traffic from Europe had plunged to 76 435 last year from 96 849 registered in 2006 while traffic from the US had fallen from 44 746 to 33 897 visitors.

ZTA chief executive Karikoga Kaseke said the authority was fighting to regain lost market share in Europe and America. “We are still working on that market. We will not surrender that market,” he said.

Tourism, which was among the biggest foreign currency earners for Zimbabwe, is a shadow of its former self after President Robert Mugabe embarked on a controversial land reform programme eight years ago.

Tourist arrivals from Asia rose by 9 percent from 37 035 to 40 484 during the past year with Japan and China contributing the largest number of visitors. But economic analysts say the Asians are not high spenders and their increased numbers do not translate into increased tourist revenue for the country.

The ZTA report comes amid fresh travel warnings issued by the US and Britain two weeks ago urging their nationals not to travel to Zimbabwe because of “an increased potential for political violence.”

Political violence, mostly blamed on Mugabe’s ruling party supporters, has been a constant feature of Zimbabwe’s polls since the emergence of the main opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) party in 2000. – ZimOnline

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