World Cup boon for Sadc

South Africa, Mozambique and Swaziland have since launched a new tourism corridor in a move aimed at stimulating economic growth among the three countries and making Southern Africa one of the world’s most important tourism hotspots. The new “Lubombo Tourism Route”, announced at the beginning of South Africa’s annual Tourism Indaba in Durban as part of the three countries’ Tourism Pledge ahead of the 2010 World Cup, will allow tourists to travel between South Africa, Swaziland and Southern Mozambique. Tourism ministers from the three countries said they had dropped all visa requirements for tourists and the money would be channeled towards upgrading facilities and building fences and roads to benefit local communities. “We are very delighted with the progress made with the route so far . . . it is now critical that the private sector also begins to play a more direct role in the marketing of the region and the identified routes will provide a strong platform for this,” said South African Minister of Environmental Affairs and Tourism, Mr Marthinus van Schalkwyk at the launch of the new route. Mozambican Minister of Tourism Dr Fernando Sumbana Junior said the new tourism route would allow Mozambique to benefit from the huge number of tourists visiting its neighbour, South Africa, and expose tourists to the region’s cultural diversity. The Lubombo Route is located in a fast growing tourism region that has recorded a significant increase in traffic from Kruger National Park and has tourist attractions including coastal lakes, lagoons, five Transfrontier Conservation Areas (TFCAs), and world heritage sites. This Transfrontier Pledge is part of the three countries’ bid to pool their resources and establish attractive tourism packages and infrastructure in preparation of World Cup 2010. The launch of the route follows a protocol signed between the Heads of State of South Africa, Mozambique and Swaziland in 1999 to enhance cooperation around tourism and economic development. New tourism facilities have been established across the borders to accommodate tourists, and the three countries have upgraded their road networks and engaged in joint operations to eradicate malaria and make the region an attractive destination. “For many years, tourists have been traveling through Swaziland on their way to KwaZulu-Natal,” said Swaziland’s Minister of Tourism, Mrs Thandi Shongwe, “Our aim is to ensure greater tourist numbers and that they spend more time in all three countries.” The Tourism Indaba, which began on Saturday and ended on Wednesday last week, put together an estimated 11 000 delegates from around the world, generated an estimated R250 million. Zimbabwean exhibitors at the fair were upbeat about the country’s tourism prospects, with the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority and a number of Zimbabwean tourist operators participating in the Indaba. ZTA is promoting the Victoria Falls and other Zimbabwean tourist destinations to regional and international participants. Zimbabwe Council for Tourism (ZCT) president Mr Tom Chuma said private tourism operators from Zimbabwe had responded positively to this year’s Indaba and were participating in marketing the country’s tourist attractions. The GotoVictoriaFalls.com campaign, which is being undertaken by ZTA, Air Zimbabwe, Rainbow Tourism Group, British Airways, Ilala Lodge, Wild Horizons and other operators is aimed at marketing Zimbabwe’s tourist destinations. The theme for Zimbabwean exhibitors at Indaba was “Victoria Falls is Back”, and it is expected to attract tourists to Zimbabwe. South Africa’s tourism has grown from one million foreign visitors in 1990 to 7,3 million in 2005, and it is projected to continue growing, as the industry expands its focus beyond the three prime tourist provinces to other parts of the country. Speaking at the beginning of the Indaba, South Africa’s Deputy President, Phumzile Mlambo Ngcuka said South Africa had an interest in growing its tourism industry together with growth of tourism in other countries. “The 2010 World Cup is not a South African event, we have agreed with FIFA that it will be an African event. All of Africa is invited to showcase itself and to be part of the action (just as long as they concede some goals to us),” she said. Meanwhile, the Greater Limpopo Transfrontier Park, established between Zimbabwe, South Africa and Mozambique in 2002 after the signing of a memorandum of association between President Robert Mugabe, President Thabo Mbeki and Joachim Chissano in December 2002, is now operational but tourists cannot easily access Gonarezhou National Park. The absence of a bridge on the Limpopo between Zimbabwe and South Africa at this crucial park point ‘ all traffic now going by Beitbridge ‘ , which is estimated to cost $2 trillion to construct, continues to be a snag in the completion of the transfrontier arrangement, as tourists face difficulties in accessing Gonarezhou National Park. Tourists from the two parks have to travel a long distance from Kruger and Great Limpopo to Gonarezhou, as they have to go through Ngundu to get a direct road link to Gonarezhou, which for now remains cut off from the mega park.

May 2006
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