Everybody knows that over the past few decades Zimbabwe’s political history has been controversial. However, recent developments have shown that the country is taking large steps in the right direction. An increased focus on tourism has meant that it is now safe to go on safari in Zimbabwe and enjoy other holidays in the country too.
Thanks to the significance of the recent events outlined below, Zimbabwe is now stronger than it has been for years. If this growth continues then it is set to become one of Africa’s top tourist destinations.
Following a peaceful election in July this year (2013), the country co-hosted the 20th edition of the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (NWTO) General Assembly, an event which attracted the attention of the world. The assembly was attended by 150 countries, the highest attendance in its history.
Significantly, issues discussed were visa facilitation, entry formalities and air connectivity. Zimbabwe took the opportunity to re-brand itself and is riding the wave of the meeting’s success. Tourism has been earmarked as a strategic industry in the national plan for economic recovery. This signifies a deliberate and wholehearted commitment on the part of the Zimbabwe government.
It is hoped that tourism will contribute 15% to GDP by 2015. According to the World Tourism Organisation: ‘While global economic growth is in low gear, international tourism continues to produce above average results in most world regions’. Secretary General, Taleb Rifai stated: ‘This underlines the need to rightly place tourism as one of the key pillars of socio-economic development, being a leading contributor to economic growth, exports and jobs’.
In a recent report on the industry the World Bank concurs. As a direct result of the UNWTO meeting, Zimbabwe was voted to the chairmanship of the UNWTO African Commission, elected to the Executive Council (the highest decision making body) and enjoys the co-Presidency with Zambia, by virtue of co-hosting the event.
Zimbabwe’s minister of Tourism, Hon Walter Mzembi, demonstrated a full appreciation of the task at hand. He said: ‘Back home we need to deal with issues of bad perception. In terms of natural beauty and attractiveness we are ranked number 21, but in terms of perception, we are badly ranked number 134 out of 135. It is that gap that we want to use our acquired status to close or reduce’.
Work is underway to introduce a uniform visa for five countries, namely Angola, Botswana, Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe to facilitate access to the Caprivi-Vic Falls-Chobe area, which is essentially the epicentre of tourist activity in the region. The UNWTO and World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) have been working closely in recent years to promote the value of visa facilitation as a means to stimulate economic growth. Tourism services is one of the six priority sectors earmarked for liberalisation by the South African Development Community (SADC).
Whereas individual states have made some progress already, there is still much to do. Current negotiations among states will enhance the region’s competitiveness as a destination. More relaxed policies in Zimbabwe have seen the number of airlines servicing the country rise to fourteen. It is now possible to fly directly into Victoria Falls on both the Zimbabwe and Zambia side.
All told, Zimbabwe is growing increasingly more attractive as a tourist destination. So, whether you are looking for a backpacking adventure or a high end safari in Zimbabwe, it is now safe to do so. Add to that Victoria Falls and a number of smaller parks and you get a picture of a top holiday destination.
In short, don’t let bad news and internet sensationalism put you off, this is a country on the up. And a safari in Zimbabwe is a truly unique experience.
Delina is a tour operator in Zimbabwe, where she has lived and worked all her life. Currently she is working Call of The Wild Safaris, who offer adventure and fishing safaris in the region. For any information or advice please feel free to contact her on [email protected].