Zim tourism registers 49pc decline

Overall, the sector has shrunk by 16 percent, according to statistics released by the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority. ZTA chairman Mr Emmanuel Fundira attributed the decline to negative publicity, which the country has been receiving from the Western Press but expressed optimism that the sector would register positive growth this year. “We had a host of problems during the year under review which include a hyperinflationary environment, weak economy, fuel shortages and bad publicity. “On the other hand, disposable incomes have been severely eroded and this impacted negatively on domestic tourism. “However, we strongly believe that we are likely to see an improvement this year,” Mr Fundira said. The conclusion of the land reform programme and improving bilateral relationships with traditional source markets was expected to improve the sector’s fortunes. Fuel supplies had also generally improved. “More energies will also be exerted on the improvement of domestic tourism which is now a force to reckon with towards the (upliftment of) national tourism,” said Mr Fundira. Local holidaymakers contributed 87 percent to earnings, a clear indication that domestic tourism is capable of changing the face of the sector, while foreign tourists accounted for only 13 percent. Tourist arrivals within the continent went down by 11 percent to 1 357 063 from 1 523 691 while overseas arrivals declined by 39 percent. Accommodation occupancy levels declined by 2 percent in 2004 from 30 percent in 2004. Average room occupancy was at 39 percent from 43 percent. Mr Fundira said various initiatives which ZTA embarked on last year would start to bear fruit this year. “We are hoping that investment in the Tourism Developments Zones will improve.” Last year, three tourist areas ‘ Great Zimbabwe Mutirikwi, Gonarezhou National Park and Shashe Beitbridge ‘ were accorded TDZ status. “It is also critical to address the cost side of travel either by air or road for sustainable growth of the industry.” Tourism used to contribute 6 percent to the Gross Domestic Product, 2,2 percent to formal employment and 10 percent of the foreign currency earnings but the sector’s performance has taken a dip over the years. At some point tourism was expected to become the third largest foreign currency earner but the sector has succumbed to negative publicity. Activity in the sector has remained depressed although indications are that it could start picking up this year. Resorts such as Kariba have suffered the most while at the premier Victoria Falls, tourist traffic has seen a steady rise in the last few months. ‘

April 2006
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