By Gilbert Nyambabvu
ZIMBABWE is looking to double tourist arrivals to five million by 2020, the head of the country’s tourism promotion agency has said.
“In three years we must double our current tourism arrivals,” Zimbabwe Tourism Authority (ZTA) chief executive Karikoga Kaseke told a group of UK travel journalists who recently visited the country.
“We are at 2.5 million; there is no reason why we shouldn’t double our arrivals to five million by 2020. I think if we do that, we will then be on the real path to growth.
“By 2025, we should be talking in terms of plus or minus 8 million arrivals.”
Kaseke was addressing travel writers at the Victoria Falls International Airport.
He said the sector was set for a major boost after the political transition which ousted former president Robert Mugabe last November.
“Some people in the UK thought that we didn’t like them because of the stance that was taken by our former president,” he said.
“He gave an impression that he doesn’t like white people. But the new president has said we love the world, we want to do business with the whole world, please don’t isolate us.”
The ZTA boss continued; “Tourism should be the major beneficiary of this new dispensation,” he said.
“Before (Mugabe’s ouster) you could not travel from this place (airport) without coming across 5 to 6 road blocks.
“Everything had turned upside down, or we turned things upside down. We were paying lip service to tourism.
“We have lost 18 years; and those 18 years we lost them in terms of (tourist) arrivals. We really need to double our efforts so that we double our arrivals within three years.”
Kaseke said growth in visitor numbers would come from Zimbabwe reclaiming its position in traditional source markets in the West.
“The UK was our biggest market by far in western Europe; it’s still leading in Europe, but we think we really have to target these traditional markets so that we reposition this destination in these markets,” he said.
“We believe our traditional markets are easier because we are known; we have to put in a lot of effort and it can easily be appreciated because these are markets which were doing good for us.”
Zimbabwe would also target China, India and other emerging markets in Asia.
“Countries like South Korea, China and South East Asia, Singapore and Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand are emerging markets which we must also look at.
“In that Asian side, India is a market that we must look at seriously.”
Kaseke said he was also hopeful that the major global carriers would return to Zimbabwe.
“We are talking to a lot of airlines,” he said.
“We were doing far much better than south Africa in the 80s. We had gained our independence and we became a darling of the world in the 1980s, but we spoiled it by not managing our international relations well, we isolated ourselves.”
He continued; “Tell me any European airline which is worth mentioning which wasn’t flying into Zimbabwe – Lufthansa, Air France; we were doing extremely well.
“But we saw them flying out because of what we did passengers for these airlines started dropping to the extent that it was no longer viable.
“The only problem we are going to have now is that we are going to have a mammoth task because we prolonged the length of isolation.
“18 years is not a joke. So, we are not very optimistic that most of the airlines will come but we are confident that some of the airlines will come (back).”