> Masimba Gomo
Harare-The Zimbabwe Tourism Authority (ZTA) says South Africa is now the greatest growing source market for tourist arrivals into Zimbabwe due to the increased visits by those visiting relatives and friends as well as for leisure.
Statistics released by ZTA show that 296 610 tourists visited Zimbabwe from South Africa in the first half of 2015 compared to 239 268 in the corresponding period last year.
ZTA said tourist arrivals from the Southern African country grew 38 percent.
“To a large extent, the increase in arrivals from South Africa (38%) boosted the rise in arrivals from Mainland Africa due the big market share it commands.
“Most of the arrivals from this market are through Beitbridge Border Post (71 percent) and Harare International Airport (12 percent). According to statistics from Beitbridge Border Post, most of the South African arrivals are those visiting friends and relatives and those on leisure,” it said.
Other African tourist source markets for Zimbabwe are Zambia, Malawi, Botswana, Mauritius, Nigeria, Lesotho, Tanzania, Egypt, Kenya and Ghana among others.
Commenting on the latest statistics from the ZTA, a tourism expert said it was easy for South Africans to visit Zimbabwe than any other African country.
“For South Africans, it is more convenient to visit Zimbabwe because of the excellent road networks that connect the two countries. The two countries share a boarder making it easy for those who may want to visit by road to the extent that they can even drive own vehicles into Zimbabwe,” it said.
“Even air connectivity between Zimbabwe and South Africa is not bad. Some airlines from South Africa are actually landing in Victoria Falls, one of the prime destinations in Zimbabwe and this is also a catalyst.”
ZTA said Zimbabwe recorded 930 276 international tourist arrivals during the first half of 2015. This figure is 7 percent up from 867 163 during the same period in 2014. The increase was mostly driven by the rise in mainland Africa. All the other major markets experienced declines except Oceania which rose by 26 percent.
The tourism promotion body said arrivals from mainland Africa registered 811 717 foreign tourist arrivals, up from 745 566 in 2014 representing a nine percent increase.
On the continental level, Africa remains the top tourist source market for Zimbabwe. Europe, America, Asia, Oceania and Middle East follow in that order.
Some of the major tourist attractions in Zimbabwe include the Hwange National Park, the Great Zimbabwe, Chinhoyi Caves, Mana Pools, Kariba Dam, the Eastern Highlands and Matopos.