Chinese tourists remain Zimbabwe shy

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CHINESE nationals, whose government is touted an all-weather friend by Harare, have largely skirted the troubled African country, preferring other regional destinations, a government minister has said.
Out of 80,000 Chinese tourists who visit southern Africa annually, Tourism Minister Walter Mzembi told Parliament Wednesday, Zimbabwe has seen a paltry 5,000 visiting, despite the country boasting one of the world’s natural wonders, the Victoria Falls.
Mzembi said his ministry has since invented an elaborate strategy to capture a significant chunk of the gallivanting lot to help resuscitate the country’s ailing economy.
“The SADC region on average is receiving between 70,000 to 80,000 Chinese tourists per year and l refer here to Zambia, South Africa and other countries in the region Mozambique included…
“But it is extremely unfortunate that Zimbabwe, which prides itself as an all-weather friend of the Chinese, is only receipting just over 5,000 Chinese tourists per annum,” he said, responding to questions from back-benchers.
Mzembi said he has since engaged the Chinese prime minister to try and manoeuvre the Chinese touring traffic in Zimbabwe’s direction.
This he said shall come through the relaxation of the existing visa regime between the Asian giant and Zimbabwe.
“We placed a request that they become politically affirmative in pushing Chinese traffic in our direction,” he said.
“In the last year, the Chinese overtook the Germans in terms of being the highest source market for the world at 98 million outbound Chinese travellers and they spent a hundred and forty billion US dollars in the countries that they visited.
“Just try and imagine if we went for 5 percent of the 100 million tourists that are moving out of China on an annual basis to go and visit into other destinations; we would have 5 million arrivals into Zimbabwe on average.
“We have established that they are spending US$1,500 per visit … what those 5 million tourists would translate to is US$7,5 billion every year in terms of tourism expenditure into our destination.”
President Robert Mugabe’s government begrudgingly embarked on its Look East policy at the turn of the century when the veteran leader fell out with his traditional Western partners who queried the handling of national elections.Advertisement

But since the policy was introduced, Zimbabwe has only seen a surge in sub-standard electrical and textile products. The Asians have also been allowed unfettered access to the country’s natural resources.
Critics say the calculative foreigners have failed to come up with constructive businesses to help reduce massive unemployment in the country, only building shopping malls and operating restaurants.
The Chinese have also been accused of tax invasion and failing to bank their profits within the country’s formal economy.