Tourist arrivals were down 3% to 1.115 million in the first half of the year, from 1.148 million in the same period last year due to low performance by Zimbabwe’s source markets, according to the latest statistics from the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority (ZTA).
Despite the decline, ZTA is projecting a positive performance for the last half of the year buoyed by the coming festive season.
ZTA’s marketing initiatives which began last year with a trip to the Middle East saw this market recording a 4% increase in arrivals to 3,500 from 3,300 in the same period last year. Arrivals from Africa were also up 3% at 921,000 from 919,000.
There was, however, a significant decline in arrivals from Europe of 21% to 79,000 from 101,000 as relations between Zimbabwe and Europe continue to be under strain.
Arrivals from America fell 17% to 47,000 from 56,000. The Asian market underperformed with arrivals down 6% to 47,000 from 50,000.
ZTA spokesperson Godfrey Koti told Business Times that there was hope for a busy second half but there were factors that needed to be addressed.
“We are optimistic for a rebound,” he said, “and I think we are looking at a busy second half. It’s just the trend the world over that the first half is always a bit tricky and the second half busy, because the season picks up around June-July and we start to see a bit of change in the environment,” Koti explained.
According to him, the change “largely depends on our economic outlook as well. There are markets that we are looking at but the bookings generally tend to shift to a positive direction in the second half. We are optimistic as a sector but there are factors that need to be looked into to realise this optimism.
“There are markets like South Africa and USA which are key from an international perspective, and we hope that we will have a healthy growth and bounce back.”
As part of efforts to grow the Asian market, Zimbabwe entered into an agreement with the Chinese firm, Touchroad, which gave birth to the New Horizon Tourism project that has provided an opportunity to open the Chinese market.
Chinese tourist arrivals have been on the increase since the country signed an agreement with China.
The comprehensive strategic partnership saw the commencement of a five-year plan which will see over 10,000 Chinese tourists visiting Zimbabwe. This means an average of 350 tourists will come to Zimbabwe on a monthly basis.
Since the signing of the agreement, there has been an increase in Chinese arrivals, from 14,407 recorded in 2017 to 19,428 in 2018.
According to ZTA statistics, tourist arrivals for the period from Oceania were down 7%, from 17,500 to 16,200. Tourism analysts say Zimbabwe’s worsening economic situation, and the growing tensions between Europe and Zimbabwe coupled with a volatile exchange rate have been the major reasons for the decline in arrivals, especially from Europe and America.