Zimbabwe may have experienced a slump in tourism in recent years but if recent treasury statistics are to be believed, things are taking a turn for the better. The number of foreign visitors to iconic locations like Victoria Falls, the country’s flagship destination, jumped close to 50% in the first quarter of this 2018 when compared with the same period in 2017. And across the country, arrivals rose by 15%.
Speaking to international news agency, Agence France-Presse (AFP) in July, Zimbabwe tourism minister, Priscah Mupfumira, admitted that things had been slow but that the region is poised for growth. "There are good vibes from the industry and from the international world - everybody is so positive," she explained.
Ron Goatley, MD for Wilderness Safaris Zambezi, agrees. “Zimbabwe is absolutely buzzing and tourism to the country is definitely on the rise – people have to come and experience it for themselves; they will not be disappointed.” According to Goatley, more lodges/camps have been built, forgotten areas like the Eastern Highlands have been put back on the map, old lodges/camps are being renovated and upgraded and the overall tourism offering remains one of the best in Africa. “Our guides are still the best, our safaris are extraordinary, our people remain warm and friendly and there really is something for everyone.”
There is so much happening currently in the Zimbabwean tourism space, notes Ross Kennedy, CEO, Africa Albida Tourism. Across the country there has been massive growth in tourism arrivals - be it for boat trips on Kariba, game viewing at Matusadona National Park, Gona Re Zhou and Hwange, scenic experiences in the beautiful Eastern Highlands or Matobo Hills or a visit to one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World, Victoria Falls. Even Harare and Bulawayo are experiencing increased occupancy, Kennedy continues. And with a new Board for the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority, there are so many people working together to develop the industry so it can be reestablished as one of the key pillars of the economy.
Looking to the future
Beck Edwards, a director at Off 2 Africa believes that the future is very bright. Zim has historically been a favourite destination tourists journeying to Africa. It has 4 Unesco World Heritage Sites and some of the most stunning landscapes in Africa. In recent years, a number of great new camps and lodges have opened up, with part ownership from existing highly respected safari operators who run successful camps in other African countries.
The tourism industry has been able to take great strides recently and tourists are excited, once again, to support the country as a whole and come and experience its range of exceptional tourism offerings, adds Goatley. There is a positive energy of hope for the future, hope for investment and job creation.
Lonely Planet has just named Zimbabwe their third Best Destination for 2019 and A&K UK have announced Zimbabwe as their Top Destination in 2019, notes Kennedy.Forecasts for 2019 are extremely strong and the mood in the industry is very positive for the coming years.
“The world knows Zimbabwe is an emerging destination; we have great weather, incredible wildlife diversity and ost importantly we have the most friendly, caring, hardworking people who just want to do all they can to ensure our tourists experience life-changing journeys,” concludes Goatley. “Zimbabwe should definitely be part of everyone’s travel plans for 2019.