By Daniel Chigundu
ZIMBABWE Tourism Authority (ZTA) chief executive Dr Karikoga Kaseke says the newly adopted “Zimbabwe Open for Business” stance has already started attracting Chinese interest in the tourism sector.
China is reportedly the world biggest outbound tourism source market since 2012 and according to the China National Tourism Administration (CNTA), a total of 120 million Chinese travelled abroad during 2015.
CNTA has revised that by 2020 China will provide over 600million outbound tourists from the earlier projected 240 million.
Although Zimbabwe had tried to warm up to the Chinese market during the time of the previous establishment with its much talked about “Look East Policy”, tourism statistics however from that market continued on a worrisome downward trend unlike in regional neighbours like South Africa.
Addressing the media after accompanying President Emmerson Mnangagwa to China a few weeks ago, Dr Kaseke said Chinese are now very much interested in Zimbabwe owing to the open-minded new dispensation.
“We met more than 23 business companies from China who were interested in the tourism area and they were very much interested in not only investing in tourism but also in pushing tourism to Zimbabwe from China some of them were complaining yes we must admit that we are not visible in China, yes indeed as tourism sector or as a tourism authority we are not visible in China.
“Some of them said they really want to work with us and push this destination for tourists from China to know that Zimbabwe is open for tourism as the President (Emmerson Mnangagwa) has already said we are open for business, they wanted to know that Zimbabwe is it open for tourism and my minister who was leading the delegation was very quick to really admit that Zimbabwe is really open for tourism.
“We are very happy that we have met not less than 5 big tour operators from China who are selling Africa and not Zimbabwe to the Chinese as a holiday or destination for leisure or destination for business. One such tour operator who we met is into incentive travel and said there are a lot of companies in China who are giving their employees who have excelled through the year and they pay for holiday in groups of 200, 300 at a time and they have not sold any of those holidays to Zimbabwe as a destination and we are very happy that one of the major tour operators said with effect from next year we will be selling incentive travel to Zimbabwe,” he said.
Dr Kaseke said incentive travel is one the area that his organisation will pay much attention to especially with regards to the agreement they signed with the Chinese, adding that Chinese incentive travellers normally spend about 14 days on the trip but would also like to visit at three others countries.
Meanwhile, the ZTA boss also revealed that Chinese tour operators have also indicated that they would like to come and hold their annual conference in Zimbabwe next year.
The conference is said to bring as many as about 1500 to 2000 delegates and is held in a different country every year.
“They hold what they call Tour Operators Annual Conference and this is very important to those who are in the tourism sector and they choose a country every year where they go and have their conference and one of the organizers of those conferences have put Zimbabwe on the map saying again next year they would like to see at least of their conferences held in Zimbabwe.
“And it’s not a small conference, it’s a conference of about 1500 to 200 people coming to Zimbabwe to hold their conference and then they go back, last year they went to hold their conference in Dubai and we think Zimbabwe can take their own share of MICE apart from incentive travel that is what we agreed with them.
“We think that very soon they will be coming here to see the facilities that we have and the facilities that we have here in Harare are adequate to hold such conference especially at the Harare International Conference Centre, it can accommodate about 5000 people,” he said.
Tourism is one of the country’s low hanging fruits with quick results if adequately funded especially for marketing purposes.
Finance Minister Patrick Chinamasa during the 2017 edition of the Sanganai/Hlanganani World Travel Expo promised to do everything in his power to ensure the sector is well resourced.-