By Michael Gwarisa
THE tourism industry racked in US$19 million in revenue in 2016 at the back of a peaceful environment that was ushered in by a partnership between the tourism industry and the Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP), Zimbabwe Tourism Authority (ZTA) Chief Executive Dr Karikoga Kaseke has said.
Despite the tourism sector having faced a myriad of challenges in recent years, the sector managed to record a steady growth in arrivals recording 2,167,686 arrivals, 5 percent up from 2,056,588 received in 2015.
“The sector also registered an estimated US$819 million in revenue in 2016 hence a contribution of about 10.9% to the GDP. This achievement, under the obtaining harsh economic environment, is largely attributed to the prevailing peace and tranquility that has been guaranteed by our security forces particularly the Zimbabwe Republic Police and other efforts by both the tourism players and government at large.
“There have been number developments in the recent past, which are anticipated to spur further growth of the tourism sector. The recent $ 150 million facelift of the Victoria Falls International Airport, which was commissioned by His Excellency, President R.G. Mugabe in November 2016 is a game changer for the travel and tourism sector as it ushers in a new era of the country’s tourism development,” said Dr Kaseke.
He added that Victoria Falls was emerging regional aviation hub, connected to major regional capitals such as Johannesburg, Pretoria, Lusaka, Luanda, Windhoek, Gaborone and Maputo. Going forward Victoria Falls is expected to be the main tourist hub for the SADC region given its centrality.
“To date numerous international airlines have shown interest in landing in Zimbabwe and these include Rwanda Air which recently introducing direct flights from Kigali, Rwanda. Kenyan Airways has likewise recently launched a direct route connecting Nairobi, Victoria Falls and Cape Town.
“South African Airlink is also expected to introduce daily flights from Cape Town to Victoria Falls from July 2017. Ethiopian Airlines made its first direct flight from Addis Ababa to Victoria Falls on 26 March 2017. Whilst there have been some businesses which closed down in recent years due to economic challenges, recently there has been a notable rise in new investments.”
“The Authority and the entire tourism industry appreciate the security initiatives particularly by the Zimbabwe Republic Police. Recently there were some concerns raised in Victoria Falls in terms of how we need to improve our collaboration with the police for national development.
“My comments in Victoria Falls on the police roadblocks were misconstrued by some social commentators who thought we are against the ZRP check points. We are not against the very national duty that is ensuring peace and tranquillity in the country. Where concerns have been raised by the tourism industry, we have positively engaged d we will continue to engage the ZRP.
“We would want to categorically state that the ZTA and the entire tourism industry is in full support of the ZRP strategies to uphold law and order in the country. Tourists come to this destination to enjoy in a peaceful environment,” he said.
He also said ZTA acknowledges and remains grateful to our police force for the role they have continued to professionally play locally and internationally where they have also represented the country so well through their participation in, among others, the United Nations Peacekeeping and observer Missions.
“The ZTA is proud of the support the industry has continued to receive particularly from the office of the Commissioner General Dr Augustine Chihuri whose wise stewardship saw the establishment of the ZRP Tourism Police Unit.
“Collectively in the sector we pay homage to Commissioner General Dr Chihuri for he values peace, social cohesion and freedom, virtues that he also fought for in the struggle for independence. Today the Zimbabwe Tourism Police is a model in the region on how the national police can collaborate with a national tourism body for tourism development,” said Dr Kaseke.
The sector is expected to continue growing in line with global trends which project that tourism will continue to be the fastest growing economic sector internationally. Arrivals in Zimbabwe are estimated to reach over 2.3 million by the close of 2017 and over 3 million by 2020.